Sen. Ron Johnson, speaks at a one on one with Emilee Fannon, with WKOW-TV, during The Cap Times Idea Fest at UW-Madison in Madison, on Saturday, September 14, 2019. Photo by Michelle Stocker

Dems running for U.S. Senate are pushing back against U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s remarks that he won’t pressure Oshkosh Defense to manufacture new postal service delivery vehicles in Wisconsin.

The Oshkosh Republican, meanwhile, is accusing the media of twisting his words.

The company will create more than 1,000 jobs under a $6 billion contract, but Oshkosh Defense plans to manufacture the trucks in a new South Carolina facility instead of its home state. Johnson said at a “parent empowerment rally” on Saturday that the worker shortage represents a more significant problem to the state and that he would not get involved in the distribution of federal money.

“It’s not like we don’t have enough jobs here in Wisconsin. The biggest problem we have in Wisconsin right now is employers not being able to find enough workers. So I wouldn’t insert myself to demand that anything is manufactured here using federal funds in Wisconsin,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that he supports manufacturing in Wisconsin, but that federal money should be spent in the most effective way possible.

“Obviously, I’m supportive of it. But in the end, I think when using federal tax dollars, you want to spend those in the most efficient way, and if it’s more efficient, more effective to spend those in other states, I don’t have a real problem with that,” Johnson said.

Milwaukee Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry, now on leave from his job, called Johnson’s response “another example of how out of touch he is with Wisconsinites.”

“The most efficient and best use of tax dollars would be for those jobs to be in Wisconsin. We have the best trained and most efficient workers in the world,” Lasry told WisPolitics.com. “If we want the best trucks, done on time, and on budget, those jobs should be brought here.”

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said in a virtual press conference today that the senator doesn’t care about the working people he represents.

“While we work hard to deliver jobs for workers, Ron Johnson is turning his back on working people in this state,” Barnes said of himself and others who have asked Oshkosh Defense to reconsider the move.

Barnes argued that corporations like Oshkosh Defense aren’t moving jobs out of state because there are more skilled workers in other states, but because they don’t want to pay for skilled union labor. Barnes has sent letters to President Biden and members of Congress, as well as Oshkosh Defense’s CEO and Board of Directors, asking them to reverse the decision.

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski slammed Johnson, saying he had given up on Wisconsin workers.

“Ron Johnson doesn’t give a damn about Wisconsin workers. A U.S. Senator should fight tooth and nail to bring good jobs and taxpayer dollars back to our state, instead, he’s just giving up,” Godlewski said in a statement.

Outagamie County Exec Tom Nelson also called Johnson out for allowing jobs to leave the state.

“The biggest problem we have in Wisconsin is Ron Johnson. He literally doesn’t care if Oshkosh loses hundreds of jobs. How about we fire him from his job?” Nelson wrote in a tweet yesterday.

Nelson said he has placed a billboard outside Johnson’s lakefront home in Oshkosh, with the quote “It’s not like we don’t have enough jobs here in Wisconsin,” and the caption “Ron Johnson doesn’t care about our jobs.”

Johnson defended his comments on Twitter today.

“Once again, the liberal media has taken my remarks and spun them for their own narrative. I said, I am always supportive of manufacturing in Wisconsin. The biggest problem I hear from businesses and local leaders in Wisconsin right now is them not able to find enough workers,” Johnson wrote.

See Nelson’s press release here.

See Barnes’ press release here.

See Godlweski’s press release here.

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