On Friday, Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke stood by her plagiarized jobs plan, a key element of which criticized the practice of outsourcing American manufacturing jobs overseas.
Despite standing by her plagiarized criticism of outsourcing in her campaign document, Burke helped send Wisconsin manufacturing jobs to China earlier in her career while employed as a senior executive at family owned Trek Bicycle, based in Waterloo, Wisconsin.
The company, whose 2013 revenues were estimated at $600 million, manufactured the majority of its bicycles in America during the first decade after its founding in 1976. By 2011, however, virtually all of the 1.5 million of the bicycles it sold were manufactured in China, Taiwan, and Germany, according to a company spokesperson. Less than one percent–a mere 10,000–were manufactured in Wisconsin.
Burke, who served on the Trek Bicycle Board of Directors along with her father, company founder Richard Burke, until 2005, appears to have played a key role in outsourcing Trek Bicycle’s American manufacturing jobs to China, despite claims to the contrary from her campaign and her family.
Burke was employed as a senior executive at Trek on two separate occasions after receiving an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1985. According to her resume, she served as the company’s Director of European Operations from 1990 to 1993, where she claims she “[grew the] company’s European business from $2 [million] to $60 [million] in sales in 4 years.” She also had “direct bottom line responsibility for 8 operations in 7 countries.”
After a two year hiatus, she returned to Trek Bicycle in 1995, where she served as Trek’s Director of Forecasting and Strategic Planning, “[r]esponsible for forecasting sales, scheduling production, managing inventory in addition to long term strategic planning and acquisition analysis,” suggesting she was crucial, if not the final decisionmaker, to deciding where the company manufactured its products.
Despite that, Burke’s brother claimed she had nothing to do with the decisions to outsource American jobs overseas, saying he and Burke’s father made the calls instead.
“Mary had nothing to do with sourcing decisions at Trek. Those decisions were made by my father and myself,” her brother John Burke, President of Trek, claimed while in France recently visiting overseas customers.
However, Mary Burke not only held a key management job that would have been closely involved in outsourcing decisions, she also served on the company’s Board of Directors during the time period those critical outsourcing decisions were made and would have had a fiduciary responsibility in that capacity to review and approve them.
Burke left the company in 2004, and served subsequently as Wisconsin’s Secretary of Commerce. She resigned from the Board of Directors in 2005, though she remained a significant shareholder in the company.
Incumbent Governor Scott Walker has criticized Burke in several ads for her role in outsourcing jobs to China. The message in those ads, which Politifact rated as “mostly true,” is now back in the forefront of the public discussion, in light of the new revelations about plagiarizing about outsourcing in her jobs plan by Burke.
In a passage of her jobs plan, Mary Burke’s Plan: Invest for Success, that copied language from the 2012 jobs plan of John Gregg, an unsuccessful Democrat candidate for Governor in Indiana, Burke promised that “As Governor, I will launch a Wisconsin IN-Sourcing Initiative (WIN) that will specialize in recruiting (and retaining) manufacturers back and abroad.”
Specifically, Burke said her “WIN TEAM, a committee of economic development professionals that serves as a single point of contact for businesses considering locating or expanding in Wisconsin. The team will work with manufacturing businesses – especially those with international production sites — to introduce them to many advantages Wisconsin can offer to meet their specific business needs.”
As Buzzfeed first reported on Thursday, Gregg had a different name for his team in his 2012 plan–the “GO Man Action Team”– but the description of what it would accomplish was verbatim the same as what Burke said her “WIN TEAM” would accomplish in her 2014 jobs plan. The “Go Man Action Team,” Gregg wrote in his plan, “a committee of economic development professionals that serves as a single point of contact for businesses considering locating or expanding in Indiana.”
In 2013, the Department of Labor “found that up to 20 former Trek Bicycle employees are eligible for special federal aid via the Trade Adjustment Assistance program because they lost their jobs due to foreign trade,” according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
One liberal activist told the Journal-Sentinel at the time, ““That’s a tough pill to swallow for Democrats that spent last year bashing Romney for sending jobs to China. Totally ridiculous — I’m ashamed to have Burke as our only candidate.”
Liberal Wisconsin talk radio host John “Sly” Sylvester was even more blunt in his criticism of Burke. “”It’s always a sad day for this state and America when companies that claim to be job creators turn to slave wage countries like China for their workforce,” he told the Journal-Sentinel.
The Burke campaign has not commented further on her role in outsourcing jobs to China during her days as part of the Trek Bicycle management team.