President Trump attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin earlier today for a planned Foxconn factory that has sparked controversy throughout the state. Foxconn, an electronics company known for producing Apple products, was given $3 billion in incentives by Wisconsin to build the factory. While proponents of the plant hope that it will spark job-growth and redefine the Milwaukee area as a digital technology hub, critics believe that Governor Scott Walker authorized the tax incentives to aid his re-election bid.
One Wisconsin Now, a progressive outfit based in Madison, believes the plant is not worth the multi-billion-dollar investment. The organization wanted to create a unique way to protest the proposed plant at the state’s Democratic Convention, and after some deliberation, they settled on custom condoms. While the condoms were a hit, they also provoked the local news media to ask whether the condoms “had gone too far.”
I spoke with Analiese Eicher, One Wisconsin Now’s Program Director, who created the custom condoms on our website. Analiese told me about the plant, the implications it has on Wisconsin’s economy, and her reaction to the blowback her condoms created in the local news.
Scott Walker, Donald Trump, Terry Gou, and Paul Ryan break ground for Foxconn’s planned facilities in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin on June 28
Tell me more about this proposed Foxconn Plant and the controversy it’s stirred in Wisconsin
It’s a re-election year for Governor Scott Walker, he’s running for a third term despite his shortcomings as governor. Part of his re-election plan was to cut a deal with a Taiwanese manufacturer called Foxconn, and the deal involved handing over a significant amount of our taxpayer dollars to bring them here. There were a lot of unanswered questions regarding labor; we didn’t know if Wisconsin companies were being used to build the plant or whether or not Wisconsinites would be hired to work in the facility.
But one of the most shocking things was looking into other plants that Foxconn runs. The CEO of Foxconn has called his workers animals. Some of their plants actually have suicide nets outside of their buildings because of the terrible working conditions. Lots of concerns were raised, and there was a lot of opposition from our constituents. But, Governor Walker wanted to be able to say that he’s brought jobs into Wisconsin during an election year. We later found out that this was the largest give-away to a foreign company by a state in all of American history, at a cost of 4.5 billion dollars to taxpayers.
How did the idea for condoms originate and where were they distributed?
We were thinking about how we can push back against this plant and bring attention to the deal. We were preparing to table at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s convention. There are ten people who have made the ballot to challenge Governor Walker in this August’s Democratic Primary. One Wisconsin Now loves to have fun, so we were brainstorming in one of our morning meetings when Scot Ross, our Executive Director, said out of the blue that we should get condoms because “we’re all getting screwed.” Scot tasked me with figuring out the plan moving forward, so I started googling “custom condoms,” which is how I came upon your website! We started there and began thinking about what we would put on them and how Scott Walker’s image and our Twitter handle could be tied in, and that’s how the Foxconndoms came to be.
The condoms were very popular among all age groups. Our booth happened to be adjacent to the Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin table which also handed out condoms, and someone joked that our condoms won the condom straw poll.
How did you first hear that the condoms were reported on by the local news?
We’re pretty aware of what’s said about us and the things we’re doing online. We actually provided all of the press covering the convention with packets containing the Foxconndoms. This way, they could see what our booth was handing out while also learning about our economic agenda. We were hoping to draw attention to the latter, but everyone wanted to talk about the Foxconndoms! This led to the Facebook post.
I thought it was funny that they asked whether or not the condom went too far considering that contraception is an important part of sexual health. There are some who would like to see greater access to contraception and others that would like to see it eliminated, so we definitely don’t think it went too far. We found some of the backlash from the commenters pretty entertaining, but at the end of the day it drew attention to the issue of Foxconn and this 4.5 billion dollar handout that they were given by the state. That was our goal.
It seems like a major point of contention among the comments is that the plant will bring jobs to the state. How would you respond to these comments?
There’s really nothing in the proposal that guarantees the workers at this plant come from Wisconsin. This plant is going to be very close to the Illinois border, so we expect that many of the workers will come from Illinois. We’ve also seen in other Foxconn plants that human workers are being replaced with machinery and robots. There are no guarantees of long-term employment, that the workers will be paid a living wage, or that they will even have jobs. There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding this proposal.
To learn more about One Wisconsin Now, visit their website