Plan to Boost Wisconsin Manufacturing, Strengthen Unions, and Invest in Communities

Manufacturing drives Wisconsin’s economy. Manufacturers in Wisconsin account for nearly 20% of the total output for the state and employ 16% of the state’s workforce. Wisconsin hosts multiple globally recognized brands that have given our state a reputation for superior quality and outstanding work ethic. With our proud manufacturing history and top-notch workforce, we have the unique opportunity to transform Wisconsin’s economy and take our manufacturing to greater heights. 

Our proud history of manufacturing is personal to me. I grew up watching my dad work nights at the General Motors plant in Milwaukee. He followed the path of my granddad, who worked as a steelworker at A.O. Smith after fighting in World War II. These weren’t easy jobs, but they were good union jobs with dignity that paid a fair wage and provided a good life for me and my family. I didn’t have to worry about our next meal thanks to my dad’s hard work. 

Jobs like my dad’s shouldn’t be rare. But unfortunately, these days they are, thanks to politicians who have sold out American manufacturing with outsourcing and bad trade deals. As your Lt. Governor, I’ve seen the same story too often: the economy is struggling, it’s hard to find good workers, unfair Chinese trade practices are disadvantageous to American workers, taxes are too high, and the supply chain isn’t working for our state’s manufacturers. And our failure to make things at home has left us too vulnerable to global shortages that drive up prices here at home. 

We also see communities in rural and urban Wisconsin that have been hit hard by the outsourcing of manufacturing. We’ve seen a sharp decline in good paying jobs which has sent too many of our young people out of the state in search of opportunity. 

Training our workers remains a top issue for Wisconsin. In fact, 60% of manufacturers said it is “very difficult” to find qualified staff to work for them. When businesses can’t find the right workers here, they too often move their business to other states, or even overseas.

Meanwhile, multi-millionaire Ron Johnson has failed to support Wisconsin businesses and jobs. He voted for a corporate tax giveaway that benefitted companies shipping jobs overseas, which wreaked havoc on our supply chain. Ron Johnson works against labor unions and actually said he wouldn’t try to get Wisconsin’s own Oshkosh Corporation, a major corporate donor for Johnson, to keep jobs in Wisconsin. Johnson even praised outsourcing overseas, saying “it makes no sense” to keep jobs in America and praising foreign countries like China that make products “dirt cheap.”

The factory where my dad worked is a strip mall now, and the factory where my granddad worked is shuttered and sitting empty. We shouldn’t accept that as inevitable; we should work to make sure the brightest days of manufacturing in Wisconsin are ahead of us, not behind us. We need to bring good jobs back home to Wisconsin and guarantee good opportunities for everyone.

I believe that Wisconsin is an amazing place for empowered workers to make the products of the future and for young people to make a fulfilled, successful life. That’s why I’m releasing my plan to breathe new life into manufacturing in Wisconsin, support communities and create new jobs, strengthen our communities, and improve quality of life so that the next generation can thrive in Wisconsin. As your next U.S. Senator I will:

  • Prioritize American manufacturing and stop shipping jobs overseas;
  • Fix supply chain issues by making things at home;
  • Take on unfair trade deals;
  • Use tax reform to keep jobs at home and support small and medium sized manufacturers;
  • Invest in 21st century manufacturing opportunities;
  • Train our workforce to take on the jobs of tomorrow;
  • Grow a stronger middle class by supporting labor unions;
  • Revitalize Wisconsin communities that have been left behind.

Thank you for reading this plan. If you have any thoughts or feedback, you can reach me at [email protected] to let me know your thoughts.

–– Mandela Barnes

Invest in American Manufacturing 

Mandela Barnes believes that Wisconsin’s long history of producing and exporting superior goods and products must be preserved. Between 2001 and 2020, Wisconsin lost nearly 90,000 manufacturing jobs partially due to unfair trade deals that punish American businesses and American workers. That’s unacceptable. We need to bring jobs back home and secure access to the American dream for the many Wisconsinites who have been left behind.

The current economic climate has been hard on Wisconsin manufacturers. The supply chain has struggled to work as intended, setting businesses back and making it harder than ever to stay competitive. Meanwhile, the country is vulnerable to price hikes on things we don’t make at home.

Our current tax system rewards outsourcers and punishes American workers. Ron Johnson and politicians in Washington have handed out tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas while leaving workers in the dust. That’s just wrong. We should be doing the opposite and rewarding small- and medium-sized businesses that employ American workers.

  • Mandela will support the bipartisan “Made in America Act” sponsored by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, which will ensure that all major federally funded infrastructure projects support American businesses, manufacturers, and workers.
  • Mandela will fight to fix the supply chain by reducing current supply chain bottlenecks, and he’ll prevent future ones by investing in American companies.
  • Mandela will work to update federal regulations for the global shipping industry so that American manufacturers can more easily export their products globally.
  • Unfair trade deals like NAFTA are partially to blame for the economic setbacks that Wisconsin has faced. Mandela will fight to renegotiate old deals and only back trade deals that put Wisconsin workers and manufacturers first.
  • Mandela will fight to repeal Ron Johnson’s tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.
  • Mandela will push forward efforts to fund new research and development tax credits for small- and medium-sized businesses that are leading the way in innovative manufacturing practices.


Wisconsin has a long history of smart innovation and producing some of the best products and services in the world. We are home to Harley-Davidson, SC Johnson, Kohler, Oshkosh, and more. We are constantly evolving and improving. Whatever China can do, we can do better. 

Wisconsin is up to the challenge of modernizing its manufacturing practices–as long as we give businesses the tools they need to succeed. Right now, the U.S. is behind on solar power while China manufactures up to 80 percent of the world’s solar panels. With our state’s manufacturing capacity, Wisconsin can and should lead the way in sustainable manufacturing including solar panels, windmills, hydropower, and electric vehicles. These new industries have the potential to bring thousands of new, good-paying jobs to Wisconsin and set our state apart as a leader in the modern era of manufacturing. And they will also make America energy independent, protecting consumers from price hikes and energy instability due to conflicts overseas. 

Wisconsin also has the opportunity to take the lead on semiconductor manufacturing, an area where America lags behind in production. Computer chip production is largely done overseas which leaves America vulnerable if we have to rely on other countries and denies good-paying, exciting jobs to American workers.

  • Mandela will support American semiconductor manufacturing, including a new tax credit for investment in semiconductor manufacturing facilities and legislation like the CHIPS Act that would invest billions of dollars in domestic computer chip production.
  • Mandela will champion renewable energy like wind and solar power and promote American energy independence by working to launch a national “green bank,” a model that has shown to be successful in other countries to fund clean energy projects and create tens of thousands of good paying jobs.
  • Mandela will fight for commonsense solutions to tackle climate change that make Wisconsin’s agriculture, transportation, energy, and food systems more sustainable, while creating jobs and opportunity across the state. 

Invest in Wisconsin’s Workforce

Growing manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin starts by investing in Wisconsin workers. Unlike Ron Johnson, who fights against labor unions and Wisconsin’s middle class, Mandela Barnes is ready to create opportunities for all of us by fighting for both workers and businesses. Mandela knows that we can’t have strong manufacturing without strong unions. By empowering unions, we can grow the economy and pay good wages without compromising on the success of Wisconsin businesses. 

First, Mandela believes workers need to be treated fairly and paid a living wage in manufacturing jobs. The right to unionize for better treatment is essential to ensuring Wisconsin’s bright economic future and growing a strong middle class. 

Second, Mandela knows that finding qualified workers is a major obstacle for manufacturing companies struggling to succeed in a competitive market. In many key industries, there just aren’t enough skilled workers to meet the demand. At the same time, workers across the country are eager to take advantage of the good-paying job opportunities that technical education provides. Mandela believes in investing in training our workforce, enabling Wisconsinites who want to work hard to learn new skills and find a good job.

  • Mandela will fight to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour to ensure a living wage for all workers and support legislation indexing the minimum wage to inflation.
  • Mandela will support the PRO Act which would strengthen labor protections related to employees’ rights to organize and collectively bargain in the workplace.
  • Mandela will support legislation to strengthen our unions, including legislation to prohibit employers from permanently replacing strikers, to strengthen labor rights through the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, and to fully fund and empower the National Labor Relations Board.
  • Mandela will oppose so-called Right to Work legislation that threatens labor unions’ ability to effectively organize.
  • Mandela will equip Wisconsin’s workforce to take on the jobs of today and prepare workers for the jobs of tomorrow by supporting free technical education and two years of free community college, and prioritizing apprenticeship programs within skilled labor like investing in Wisconsin’s School-to-Work initiative. 
  • Mandela will continue the fight to reverse Oshkosh Corporation’s decision to send 1,000 jobs to S.C. instead of creating good-paying union jobs for Wisconsin workers. 

Invest in Struggling Communities

Part of revitalizing Wisconsin manufacturing and creating more good-paying jobs is attracting and retaining the skilled workers we need to fill those jobs. But the decline of manufacturing at home has dried up many good-paying jobs both in cities and rural areas. Rural communities have seen a steady population decline and Milwaukee has suffered a 40 percent decline in manufacturing jobs since 1970. Now a generation of young people is looking outside Wisconsin to find opportunities — even when they’d rather stay in their communities. 

Mandela will ensure that Wisconsin is a great place to live, work, play, and raise a family for everyone, from our cities to our rural communities, so no one is left behind. That’s why he’s ready to revitalize urban areas and rural communities that have struggled and invest in a better way of life and more opportunities for everyone.

  • Mandela will work to bring good jobs and opportunity back to the rural and urban areas that have suffered as a result of bad trade deals and offshoring.
  • Mandela will invest in rural health care to ensure rural Wisconsinites don’t get inferior care because of where they live, including funding for more doctors, better health care, and more health care centers. 
  • Mandela will fight for infrastructure funding and better transportation in rural and urban communities.
  • Mandela will strengthen public schools across the state so that a child’s zip code does not determine their potential for success.