Big labor is ramping up its fight to pull production of a giant new fleet of United States Postal Service vehicles to Wisconsin from South Carolina, arguing that it is "not good for the Democrats" that United Autoworkers will not be producing the vehicles as they had expected.
In 2015, the USPS sought bids for a 10-year contract to produce up to 165,000 of its Next Generation Delivery Vehicles to replace some of its current rides – many of which have been in operation for more than three decades.
USPS announced in Feb. 2021 that vehicle builder Oshkosh Defense, a subsidiary of OkshKosh Corporation out of Wisconsin, won the multi-billion-dollar bid, causing the company's UAW members and labor leadership to rejoice as they assumed the job would go to the firm's existing Wisconsin facilities. But that is not what happened.
Oshkosh Defense announced in June of last year that it would instead repurpose a South Carolina facility in order to produce the cars for the USPS, and hire the 1,000-or-so workers in that state rather than use their existing labor force. The company told FOX Business production is set to start next year.
Democratic lawmakers and union leaders protested the move with both the USPS and Oshkosh to no avail at the time, and have renewed their push this week claiming that keeping production in South Carolina is bad for both Democrats and labor – even lambasting the Biden administration for allowing it.
"We’re saying Build Back Better, but you’re getting it wrong right out of the gate," UAW vice president Cindy Estrada told The Guardian, which first reported the news. "These are public dollars where we could have more control over making sure this goes to good, union jobs."
"This is not good for the Democrats," Estrada went on to tell the outlet. "Working people are hearing one thing about Building Back Better and seeing the results the other way."
Estrada added, "This is an opportunity. A mistake was made. This is not Build Back Batter. This is building back worse."
David Osborne, CEO of non-profit Americans for Fair Treatment, which works to educate public sector employees about their constitutional rights around union membership, says the UAW official's own words show the pushback has to do with politics and control rather than workers.
"Estrada read her stage directions out loud when she said, ‘This is not good for the Democrats,’" Osborne told FOX Business. "She and other union officials are pulling every lever they have, including their close relationship with the Biden administration, to pull tax dollars into their otherwise failing union."
"It doesn’t matter whether the union is dealing with the government or private-sector employers — they see union labor as a chance to build their political capital, whether or not it’s actually good for workers," Osborne said.
He added, "We work with public employees every day who are fed up with union officials who treat them like a means to an end. It’s time we see that unions don’t act in the best interest of their members."
The White House and the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday called for the USPS to hold a new hearing to reconsider its contract with Oshkosh altogether, arguing that there are environmental concerns over the deal that is for mostly gas-powered vehicles rather than electric, Reuters reported.
The USPS told the outlet that it was reviewing the concerns, but believes the agency has followed the federal government's environmental review requirements.
"While we can understand why some who are not responsible for the financial sustainability of the Postal Service might prefer that we acquire more electric vehicles, the law requires us to be self-sufficient," USPS said in a statement, adding that it is "willing to accelerate the pace of electrification of our delivery fleet if a solution can be found to do so that is not financially detrimental to the Postal Service."