Fond Du Lac the Latest Casualty in Corporate Race to the Bottom

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Over the weekend, corporate leadership at Brunswick, the owner of Mercury Marine, proved beyond any doubt that not only were they negotiating in bad faith, they were never planning on keeping the plant in Fond du Lac. And once again, working families in Wisconsin get left in the dust in the race to bottom that is corporate America.

The concessions corporate management demanded of union workers were breathtaking —  a wage freeze for seven years and a 30% pay cut for new hires and re-hires of employees previously laid off. Brunswick CEO Dustin McCoy makes $3.28 million per year. He didn’€™t offer to take a seven-year pay freeze or a pay cut of any kind. The union voted against the ridiculous concessions, but the mere fact management even offered this package is proof Merc had a foot out the door even before the vote. I can practically hear the Board of Directors now ‘€“ ‘€œWell, if the union is dumb enough to accept this package, I guess we’€™ll stay’€¦’€

But why would the biggest employer in Fond du Lac be so eager to leave? Merc has roots in Fond du Lac, and the city and its people have been more than loyal ‘€“ Merc outboards are as ubiquitous as Packer’€™s jersey in Fondy. As a kid, I rode in countless fishing, skiing, tubing, even sail boats outfitted with Merc motors on Lake Winnebago. My friends and I sneered at other brands of motors and listened intently as our dads espoused the quality of Mercury Marine and torpedoed Evinrudes and Johnsons. My baseball coach for ten years worked the line, and one of my most important life mentors was a VP at Merc before he retired years ago. Fond du Lac was good to Merc ‘€“ the county even offered to levy a sales tax for the first time in an effort to keep Merc in town. The union made another attempt at a vote on the concessions at the 11th hour. Management knew the vote was happening, but they called off the negotiations. None of that was good enough for the corporate sharks at Brunswick.

The reason corporate leadership is forcing the move came right from the horse’€™s mouth. ‘€œPeople should be reminded that there was another town, that we are very compatible with, in Oklahoma,’€ proclaimed Merc spokesman Steve Fleming. People should also be reminded why Oklahoma is just so darn compatible with Merc’€™s corporate interests. See, the Merc plant in Oklahoma is a non-union plant, so management in Oklahoma doesn’€™t have to deal with those ‘€œpesky’€ negotiations with workers over fair wages and good benefits. 

If I was a non-union worker in Stillwater, Oklahoma, I wouldn’€™t get too excited. Sure, you’€™ve got a job now, but Stillwater is just a pit stop on Brunswick’€™s way to China or some other place with even less regulation, no unions, and cheaper labor.  The only language corporate America speaks is the language of profits. Unpatriotic corporations do anything they can to avoid paying taxes while they suck up government services. CEO’€™s take home millions and give working families the finger, demanding pay freezes and benefit cuts. That’€™s why it makes me so sick when right-wingers and tea baggers get all red-faced standing up for these robber barons. Corporate America doesn’€™t care about you or me or anyone, only dollars. Merc Marine and Brunswick is just one more example of why we should be outraged over the corporate take-over of our state and nation. 

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