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House Democrats take up Wisconsin union fight over postal vehicle production

 U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)
screengrab from Congressional webcast
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during Tuesday's House Oversight Committee hearing at the Capitol.

More concerns from unions and Democrats are surfacing following a Congressional hearing Tuesday on the building of the next generation of postal delivery vehicles.

The Oshkosh Corporation has a contract with the U.S. Postal Service to build up to 165,000 of the vehicles over the next decade. Democrats who control the House Oversight Committee mainly want the majority of the small vans to be electric vehicles and not be gasoline-fueled. But some lawmakers also took up concerns from the AFL-CIO and United Auto Workers over company plans to build the vehicles at what may be a non-union plant in South Carolina, instead of by UAW members in Oshkosh.

Under questioning from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), Victoria Stephen of the U.S. Postal Service said that after Oshkosh Corporation initially won the contract, the service got a heads up that the company was going to do the work in South Carolina.

"Yeah, the postal service was made aware of that decision shortly before the public announcement. And it is a decision that's at the discretion of the supplier," Stephen said.

Ocasio-Cortez followed up: "After the ink was dry, it looks like they're opening up a scab facility in South Carolina, with no prior history of producing vehicles in that facility."

The postal service said it only requires U.S. production of its vehicles, not particular locations or type of workforce.

The Postal Service presented this slide during Tuesday's hearing.
The Postal Service presented this slide during Tuesday's hearing.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-South Carolina) quizzed postal service executive Stephen about the ability to form a union in his state.

"So, if employees wanted to band together and if they think a union is worth the dues that they pay, that comes out of their paycheck, they've got the freedom to do it in a right to work state such as South Carolina?" Norman asked.

"Yes, that's correct," Stephen replied.

But unions generally dislike so-called right-to-work laws, found in South Carolina, Wisconsin and about two dozen other states, as the labor groups argue workers can avoid paying union dues yet theoretically enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining.

After the hearing, at least two Democrats running for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, Mandela Barnes and Tom Nelson, blasted Oshkosh Corporation or the postal service. Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson has defended the company's plan to locate much of its postal vehicle work in South Carolina.

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