Tom’s values were formed by the labor families he grew up with in the small town of Little Chute, Wisconsin. They worked at the local paper mills of the Fox Valley and their family-supporting jobs built the foundation of thriving communities — until they were betrayed by decades of corporate globalization and the lack of a coordinated national industrial strategy.

Tom wants to go to the Senate to make sure the economy works for families like these and to make sure its benefits flow not just to Wall Street and billionaires.

Along the way, Tom wants to repair broken supply chains while saving Wisconsin’s family farms and small businesses WITHOUT plowing more money into foreign companies like Foxconn, who wrench billion-dollar taxpayer subsidies from the state with broken promises of job creation and economic development. Tom wants to INVEST in American workers and restore power to labor unions in ways that restore our communities — like the one he grew up in on Carol Lynn Drive in Little Chute.

When COVID first hit, we saw the embarrassing photos of frontline workers not able to access basic PPE, masks and other supplies as America no longer made these things. The panic run on toilet paper showed why it’s so important that we still make that product here for the most part, and are not reliant on imports. Low prices and “just-in-time” efficiency are false idols when confronted with events out of our control. They’ve also contributed to our staggering levels of income inequality. The saving of Appleton Coated showed the rare successful story to counter the sad tales of heartland job loss. The linked inflation and supply chain crises should be our clarion call for a national industrial strategy to start making it here in Wisconsin.

To read Tom’s complete “Full Nelson Agenda” for Jobs and the Economy, click HERE.


Tom’s Agenda:

    • Invest in a national industrial strategy just like Germany, Japan, China and others are doing. We need to start making things in Wisconsin again! Direct public resources into one program to build industrial capacity. We need to end the inimical competition for jobs between cities and states. In exchange for public support, require manufacturers to make more goods in America. Doubling down on basic science research should be part of this. Fund universities and research centers that are working on new technologies that could create new products and thousands of jobs. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) that passed the U.S. Senate would go a long way in accomplishing these goals. Where the United States once led in semiconductor manufacturing, accounting for 37% of global chip production, now that number is down to 12% as we rely on Taiwan, South Korea and China for the materials needed to make our cars, computers, iPhones, electronics, etc.

      A good example of what we need is the former Institute for Paper Chemistry which was an arm of Lawrence University and consortium of Fox Valley (Appleton, Wis.) paper companies that funded industry-wide research. As producers got lazy, settled with contemporary product lines, and lost interest in innovation, the research institute folded up shop and moved to Georgia Tech where it soon lost its identity, got absorbed by another department and withered on the vine.

      We need to target what the late economist William Blaumol and former IBM executive Ralph Gomory called “retainable industries” like automotive, steel and paper. They took a long time and a lot of money to build. They are foundational to our economic health and community identity — “Motown,” “Steelers,” and “Papermakers.” We need to revive domestic manufacturing as quickly as possible, including using the Defense Production Act.
    • Reviving Antitrust Laws to Break up Corporate Monopolies and Stamp out Price Fixing. Some experts believe due to consolidation and corporate mergers, corporate profits are driving 60% of inflation as companies experience their highest profits in 70 years. When only a handful of companies control the market for everything from meat to oil to ocean shipping to railroads to prescription drugs, companies are able to set their own prices with no real competition to fear.

      Rates for ocean shipping have skyrocketed during the pandemic, leading to $190 billion in profits for the industry in 2021, a figure that’s five times higher than the entire period from 2010 to 2020 combined. After decades of deregulation, it’s time to start enforcing antitrust laws, both to prevent new mergers and to stop price gouging. Monopolies in the meatpacking and dairy industries are prime examples of how a handful of companies controlling the market for bacon and cheese are increasing prices for consumers while also failing to pay farmers and ranchers a fair price. A windfall profits tax should be considered for any corporations unjustly gouging consumers, whether it’s food companies or oil companies.
    • Adopting a fair tax code that rewards businesses that invest in their products and workers and bans stock buybacks. We should close tax loopholes that incentivize corporations to ship jobs overseas and siphon cash from their treasury in the form of dividend payouts, stock buybacks and CEO bonuses. When the highest income tax bracket was 70 percent, businesses had the incentive to plow earnings into higher wages, pension plans and research and development that grew business and created good-paying jobs.From 1981 to 1983, S&P 500 companies spent 4.3 percent of profits on buybacks. In comparison, from 2014 to 2016, these same companies spent 59 percent of their profits buying back their own stock. The 2017 Trump-Ron Johnson tax cuts poured more fuel on this trend. Companies like Kimberly-Clark, maker of Huggies and Kleenex, spent $900 million on stock buybacks while shutting down a plant in Neenah, Wisconsin and threatening to close another nearby plant. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s Reward Work Act is sorely needed.
    • Renegotiating bad trade deals and favoring Buy American. We need to shred NAFTA and other bad trade deals that expose U.S. industry to unfair foreign competition and begin negotiating from the standpoint of the worker — not the corporation. 20 years of China being in the WTO has hollowed out much of Wisconsin’s cities and small towns as jobs left and now America must rely on an authoritarian regime for everything from prescription drugs to PPE to rare earth metals and solar panels. Global free trade deals also thwart Buy American provisions for government procurement. We need to favor Buy American wherever we can and use our government purchasing power to rebuild American industries. 
    • Reforming bankruptcy laws so workers and community interests matter as much as Wall Street interests. We were able to save the Appleton Coated paper mill because of Wisconsin’s unique receivership law that has evolved through case law in the last quarter-century. Under Chapter 128 receivership law, before factories are shut down, community leaders object to the sale by noting the importance that goes beyond just profits and see if there is a way for a community to come together to preserve the assets — labor, business and local government. Private equity and hedge funds have made a killing in sucking companies dry while leaving workers (and their pensions and health care) out to pasture. U.S. bankruptcy laws should follow Wisconsin’s to give valuable companies a chance at survival.
    • Bringing labor unions to the table and keeping them there. In this era of management churn and revolving ownership, those at the top know less of their actual business than their forebears. Labor is a storehouse of institutional knowledge and an indispensable strategic asset. Management would be wise to fully engage them in their business.
    • Empowering workers by passing laws that will make it easier for them to organize and collectively bargain. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act currently before the U.S. Senate is a good start. We need to go a few steps further and repeal the Taft-Hartley Act that set the American labor movement on a downward spiral 70 years ago by greenlighting so-called “Right to Work” laws in the states, outlawed the closed shop and made it harder to organize workforces and keep them organized. Unions reached their apex in the lead up to Taft-Hartley when one-third of the workforce was in a union.
    • Raise the minimum wage to $15.

Tom’s Record:

    • Tom’s work to help save a local paper mill shows how labor, management and local government can work together to achieve economic success.In his book One Day Stronger: How One Union Local Saved a Mill and Changed an Industry — and What It Means for American Manufacturing, Tom recounts the story of how he helped to lead such a coalition to save the Appleton Coated paper mill.While former Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson were busy throwing billions at Foxconn, Tom was working overtime to protect an industry that has powered Wisconsin for over a century.
    • Using union labor, Tom helped to build and expand Outagamie County’s international airport which contributes $700 million of economic activity each year while supporting more than 2,500 local jobs. Appleton International Airport is one of the fastest growing airports in the country.
    • As a member of the Fox Valley Technical College board and the Bay Area Regional Workforce Development board, Tom was an advocate for investment in skills training,  helping connect workers with good-paying jobs. As a result, his county and region CONSISTENTLY perform with a low unemployment rate and expanded economic opportunity.
    • As county executive, Tom helped award more than $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act grants to local businesses and nonprofits to assist them in re-building their businesses and services in the aftermath of the pandemic.
    • As county executive, Tom oversaw investments of more than $300 million in public and private works projects, which in turn created hundreds of good-paying union construction jobs.
    • Tom received a 100% Wisconsin AFL-CIO rating during his time in the Wisconsin Assembly, where he served as Majority Leader. 

More Information: 

  • Watch Tom’s video supporting the Nabisco-Frito Lay workers strike here.
  • Watch Tom’s speech from the SEIU Healthcare workers rally here.
  • Watch Tom’s speech in support of rallying Hufcor workers whose jobs are moving to Mexico here.
  • Read Tom’s op-ed on why the United States must establish a national industrial strategy to revive manufacturing and domestic supply chains here.
  • Watch Tom’s speech on why we need to take on China here.
  • Watch Tom’s speech from the Our Revolution PRO Act rally here.
  • Read Tom’s op-ed on why we need to take corporate greed head on here.
  • Watch Tom’s speech on farming and antitrust here.
  • Watch Tom’s video on offshoring hurting the Verso Paper Mill here.