Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series highlighting the local impact of Trump’s policies in key counties in MI, PA, WI, and FL.
During his campaign for President in 2016, President Trump repeatedly promised a revival of manufacturing jobs across the Midwest. But after Kimberly-Clark Corp. closed down its plant in Neenah, Wisconsin, at the end of May 2019 — even as the company enjoyed a multi-million payday from the President’s corporate tax bill — some 100 people were out of work.
Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Kleenex, Kotex and other personal-care brands, announced in January 2018 that it would be laying off between 5,000 and 5,500 employees across the country, including the 100 jobs in Wisconsin. On the same day, the company reported $3.3 billion in profits in the 2017 fiscal year.
After announcing the layoffs, Kimberly Clark’s CFO, Maria Henry, also stated that the savings the corporation received from President Trump’s 2017 tax bill would be used to ”allocate significant capital to shareholders.”
According to a Department of Labor filing in February 2019, Kimberly Clark shipped the Wisconsin jobs to a foreign country, which stated “there has been an acquisition from a foreign country by the workers’ firm of articles/services that are like or directly competitive with those produced/supplied by the workers’ firm,” and “the shift/acquisition must have contributed importantly to the workers’ separation.”
Kimberly Clark’s CEO, Thomas J. Falk, said the organization would use the $500 million saved from the layoffs to make the organization “leaner, stronger, and faster.”
But when it came to restructuring his own salary, Falk did not seem to trim the fat at all.
In the 2018 fiscal year, Falk was paid a total salary of $13,010,083.
A Department of Labor filing in February 2019 certified displaced Kimberly-Clark workers for trade adjustment insurance in the United States.
President Trump’s surprise win in 2016 centered on winning Democratic-leaning states like Wisconsin and places like Neenah, which sits on the north shore of Lake Winnebago in Winnebago County, 100 miles north of Milwaukee. Winnebago County has swung between parties since 2000, twice voting for George W. Bush and twice for Barack Obama before switching to Trump.
Trump won Wisconsin with just 47.9 percent of the vote in 2016. It remains to be seen if voters in Winnebago County will sour on the incumbent President in light of his broken promises and the consequences of his policies, particularly his signature policy achievement that appears to have benefited CEOs and corporations at the expense of workers.