Another two rounds of mass layoffs have been announced at Oshkosh Corp: 700 workers will lose their jobs in June, with 200 following in July. Over 400 layoffs occurred in February. That's more than 1,300 Wisconsin workers and their families left stranded because, as the war in Afghanistan winds down, the need for the tactical wheeled vehicles produced by Oshkosh Corp. has significantly diminished.
As if the reality of 1,000-plus families in central, southern and eastern Wisconsin suddenly left without income or health care benefits isn't bad enough, the effects of these layoffs will ripple further throughout the state. Oshkosh Corp. annually works with over 1,400 vendors in Wisconsin that provide more than $1.4 billion in goods and services to the company.
This catastrophe has been looming on the horizon for some time. As Oshkosh Corp.'s Vice President of Marketing and Communications John Daggett said, "We knew there was going to be an end." Reductions to Pentagon spending are not to blame; rather, the root of the problem lies in hinging employment on the production of a military product that will be obsolete when war ends and without any framework for transition when this occurs.
Oshkosh Corp. has done (and continues to do) its duty to the state of Wisconsin - it provides quality jobs in our state and a great service to the Department of Defense. Now, Congress must do its duty to Oshkosh Corp. and its workforce.
The company is attempting to retain as many positions as possible, and the retraining of workers at local technical colleges, assistance in job-searching and extension of unemployment benefits are needed. But this will not be enough to protect the majority of those laid off. We need a viable framework for defense transition assistance for Oshkosh Corp. and defense contractors across the nation that will inevitably find themselves in this same position.