Johnson visits local metal fabrication company, discusses tariffs
Also tackles workforce development, school safety, education

By ASHLEY HAYNES - Freeman Staff

June 16, 2018


Ashley Haynes/Freeman Staff

Sen. Ron Johnson (left) talks with Mathison Manufacturing Inc. President Al Leidinger during a tour of the company Friday


WAUKESHA - Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, visited Mathison Manufacturing Inc., a local company that specializes in metal fabrication, on Friday morning. After a brief tour, the main topic of discussion was the recent tariffs on metal that President Donald Trump has imposed on U.S. allies. With a company like Mathison going through countless sheets of metal daily, it is a strong representative for the kinds of businesses that are affected by these tariffs.

“I do strongly disagree with what President Trump is doing on trade,” said Johnson. “[But] I’m willing to give him some leeway. I don’t want to take away his negotiating strength.”

He added that starting a trade war is counterproductive, but he does support Trump’s aggressive stance on China’s tariffs, which he says are theft.

Johnson stressed finalizing trade deals with U.S. allies as quickly as possible, to help prevent a trade war from spinning out of control and to keep American businesses competitive.

During Friday’s Q&A session, Johnson also addressed the difficulty nationwide of finding skilled trade workers. Mathison President Al Leidinger says that between a skills gap and labor shortage, he does consider himself understaffed. Johnson said in seven years of visiting similar companies, he hasn’t found a single one that has claimed they can hire enough people. When asked what state and federal governments are doing to open up vocational/trades training, Johnson said, “First of all, the federal government has already done too much harm. The beauty about workforce development is this is something you can fix at a local level.”

He encourages local companies to get into their school systems as much as possible and to also get students into their businesses to make sure they are informed on all their options. Johnson said workforce development can progress with an attitude change. Students need to stop hearing that they need a four-year degree to be successful, he said.

Also a hot topic over the past year, Johnson shared his thoughts on school safety and gun control, which he says won’t fix the issue at hand.

“I’ve not yet seen more gun control that’s going to prevent these things. I haven’t seen a proposal from that standpoint, “ said Johnson.

He points to enormous schools with large student populations that alienate certain students as being one of the reasons students/ school shooters resort to violence, of which there are now so many examples to emulate.

Johnson said we need to re-evaluate as  a society and make sure we at least have some basic safety measures in place, like more trained safety officers, so possible criminals know they will meet resistance if they walk into a school.

Democratic response

Matt Lowe, chairman of the Waukesha County Democratic Party, offered counterpoints to the topics addressed by Johnson Friday morning.

When it comes to school safety and gun violence, Lowe thinks saying guns are not a part of the equation is tone deaf, and points to the U.S. as being unique in the number of mass shooting incidents.

“When you look at the kids that commit these crimes, they aren’t the bullied kids we thought they were. There’s no single thing that we can put a finger on, except the fact that they all had access to a gun,” said Lowe.

He says passing universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and common sense gun reforms, as well as investing more money into mental health care, can all happen in the immediate future to address the problem. He added the students leading this movement are not looking at the issue as being gun-related only, but as a fully-rounded initiative.

Regarding American businesses and the newly imposed tariffs, Lowe agrees that starting a trade war is unwise.  Lowe says the effects will be felt locally by companies in our everyday lives, like MillerCoors, whose CEO told Bloomberg this week the company is expecting metal tariffs to affect their profits by $40 million.

Lowe also agrees that as a society, we need to make sure kids look at all their education options, but disagrees that the federal government is to blame for educational system woes like the student debt load, and instead points to state government and institutions.