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Yesterday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced the appointment of Timothy W. Sullivan, former president and CEO of Bucryus International (now part of Caterpillar), to a new position Walker called “Special Consultant for Business and Workforce Development” for the state of Wisconsin. Here’s the press release announcing the appointment.

Tim Sullivan appointment announcement
The press release included this:

Job creators from all across Wisconsin have identified a skills gap between the jobs they have available and the workers applying to fill them.  Manufacturers, in particular, identify this skills gap as one of the top barriers to business growth.  Similarly, our technical colleges report difficulty in filling many of their manufacturing training courses with qualified students. That’s why Governor Walker has worked closely with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Workforce Development on ongoing strategies for tackling the problem.
All sounds great, doesn’t it?
As Special Consultant for Business and Workforce Development, Sullivan will be help identify barriers to business development and job growth in Wisconsin.  He will focus especially on workforce, employment environment, and policy issues.  He will also help identify and cultivate business prospects for expansion and relocation to Wisconsin.

Sullivan will also head up the Office of Business Development, serve as Chairman of the Council on Workforce Investment and as member of the College and Workforce Readiness Council.  Sullivan is serving the state as a volunteer.

This immediately peaked my interest because Bucyrus makes mining equipment. And, of course, the mining bill is a very hot topic.

In my search for further information on this subject, I came across an excellent article on progressive.org written by Rebecca Kemble, posted January 16.

In the piece, Kemble noted Walker’s efforts to shift training costs typically borne by corporations onto taxpayers by essentially turning the state’s technical colleges into training arms of some of Wisconsin’s major corporations, while also creating a world of near indentured servitude in the hiring of technical college graduates and students. She notes:

Last week I reported on AB 353, a bill that would change the composition of the sixteen technical college district boards to exclude workers and mandate a majority of business people. During the public hearing, several members of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities pointed out the irony of Republican complaints about the “product” of the Tech College system at a time when they voted to cut $71 million from their budgets.

If Republicans value tech colleges as key players in workforce development, why are they cutting their budgets so drastically? It appears to be all part of the grand scheme to “Starve the Beast” and make public institutions vulnerable to takeover by private entities. Starving tech colleges of state funds shifts the burden to property tax payers and students through increased tuition and fees.

Tech college district boards are then forced to make the decision to raise the money required to run the colleges through tax and tuition increases, by cutting programs, salaries and benefits of workers, or by seeking out “partnerships” with the private sector in order to keep their institutions afloat. Reducing state aid and stacking boards with business owners assures that the public has a diminished voice in how these choices are made, and gives private corporations an inordinate amount of power over staffing and programming.

And who was at the center of this effort to “corporatize” these publicly-funded institutions? None other than Timothy W. Sullivan:
Now these companies are clamoring that the workforce is not prepared for employment. Rep. Mark Honadel and Katy Vaskunas, lobbyist for Metropolitain Milwaukee Association of Commerce, both raise the specter of an insufficient number of trained welders – a complaint they both attributed to Tim Sullivan, former CEO of mining equipment manufacturer Bucyrus (now owned by Caterpillar). When Rep Louis Molepske asked for specific data on this alleged lack of welders, both demurred.

It turns out that Sullivan’s complaint dates back to 2006 when he launched a successful campaign to get a certificate program in flux core welding started at the Milwaukee Area Technical College. But Bucyrus wanted more. They pushed the board to expand the program by leasing space from Esperanza Unida, an agency that provides job training and placement for workers in the Hispanic community, and to purchase more training equipment. The MATC board voted that proposal down. After the vote, Sullivan revealed that Bucyrus didn’t need as many welders as they originally thought, and stated that the new in-house program was sufficient to meet their needs.

Fast forward five years when Caterpillar seals the $8.6 billion deal to purchase Bucyrus and moves its mining equipment division to Milwaukee, with one of its factories in the heart of Rep. Mark Honadel’s district. In North Carolina, Caterpillar was the recipient of millions of dollars in state aid for training and custom curriculum for workers in its Winston-Salem factory. If they could convince North Carolina lawmakers that the jobs they planned to create were worth this kind of taxpayer subsidy, what about in Wisconsin under Scott Walker?

Enter Mark Honadel who recently introduced AB 450, a bill that the Oshkosh Northwestern called, “a pilot program to provide unpaid, part-time training with employers that may lead to full-time work.” They left out the part about how it will be paid for: by an extension of the workers’ unemployment compensation benefits.

The bill establishes a kind of corporate serfdom. That is, the state pays for a worker's probation period at a private corporation with a paltry amount of unemployment insurance. The corporation receives the value of the workers’ labor, and gets a chance to vet them before deciding if they actually want to offer the worker a job. Since the worker is not actually employed by the company, they have no rights with regards to injury, working conditions or grievance processes.

How wonderful! Shift training costs from corporations to the state and create a slave labor pool all in one fell swoop!

Not surprisingly, Sullivan’s political contributions lean toward the PAC variety, particularly, Mining and Coal PACs.

He’s got Koch bothers’ dust all over him.

[NOTE: I use a significant portion of Rebecca Kemble's work here. If I am overstepping copyright bounds, I will take some of it down. That said, this issue of transferring what were once corporate expenses onto the backs of taxpayers needs more exposure.]

EDIT: Changed title. Eliminated "slave" and replaced it with "taxpayer-funded," as per comment from cai, below.

Originally posted to Bob Johnson on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 11:41 AM PST.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, In Support of Labor and Unions, Badger State Progressive, and American Legislative Transparency Project.

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