Union employees gathered Saturday afternoon to demand that the Oshkosh Corporation manufacture the “next generation” of U.S. Postal Service delivery vehicles in Wisconsin rather than South Carolina. Over a thousand jobs are on the line.
Hundreds of union workers held banners in the shadow of Oshkosh Corporation's corporate offices, requesting that the corporation reconsider a production decision made last summer.
Five Democratic Senate candidates attended the demonstration, urging the corporation's Oshkosh Defense unit to reconsider its plan. The speakers took aim at corporate executives as well as Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who has defended Oshkosh's decision to locate its assembly line in a different state.
When Johnson dismissed the plans for South Carolina earlier this month, saying, "It's not like we don't have enough jobs here in Wisconsin," he provided Democrats with a sound bite that will likely be used again and again between now and the November election.
“I’m proud to join leaders from across the state who are calling on Oshkosh Defense to bring those jobs to Wisconsin,” said Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. “If Ron Johnson says we don’t need more good jobs here, we don’t need more Ron Johnson this November.”
According to Oshkosh Defense, the key reason South Carolina was chosen was the availability of a big facility that could be used to meet the Postal Service's deadline for new trucks. The company claims to be pushing forward with the manufacturing in South Carolina and its website indicates that it has begun hiring there.
The contract calls for up to 165,000 trucks to be delivered over a ten-year period at a cost of $6 billion or more. The Postal Service turned down appeals from the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency to rethink the agreement so that additional electric vehicles might be created.
The agency is attempting to build wide community support for its effort to relocate all postal workers to Oshkosh. On Tuesday, however, the Oshkosh Common Council declined to endorse the community's efforts to have the mail vehicles produced locally.
Instead, the council adopted a resolution that simply "encourages Oshkosh Defense to use local Oshkosh Defense resources and facilities to help build the Next Generation Delivery Vehicles for the United States Postal Service when possible."
“Both Wisconsin and South Carolina are right to work states,” Oshkosh Defense President John Bryant said. “Other factors, including workforce availability and proximity to our supply chain and USPS vehicle maintenance facilities were also important.”
Despite union efforts, there seems to be no change in the ongoing battle between workers and the government as the production of these vehicles is still scheduled to begin in spring 2023.