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IN THE NEWS: Rep. Braun’s company relies heavily on supplier that shipped American jobs to China

INDIANAPOLIS – One of Rep. Braun’s biggest suppliers began laying off its American workers and outsourcing jobs to China the same year his company began to work with them, according to another report on Rep. Braun’s reliance on foreign labor from the Associated Press.

The Associated Press reported today that Minnesota-based Westin Automotive laid off over 200 workers from its Minnesota plant in 2008 and began to shift production to low-wage factories in China and Taiwan. That’s the same year that Promaxx Automotive, Rep. Braun’s own line of auto parts that the AP reported earlier this month sources the bulk of its parts from China, began to do business with them. In the years to come, Westin became one of Rep. Braun’s biggest suppliers, while importing more than 700 shipments of parts from China.

If there’s a silver lining for Hoosiers, it’s that while Rep. Braun has continued to falsely claim his business has “no Chinese suppliers,” his campaign has finally admitted to the AP that his business relies on foreign suppliers. It’s unclear whether Rep. Braun himself, however, would admit that his own business is responsible for manufacturing auto parts in China at the expense of American workers.

From the Associated Press: Indiana candidate’s outsourcing ties magnified under Trump

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Layoffs came in waves at Westin Automotive’s Minnesota plant as production shifted to low-wage factories in Asia, ultimately pushing more than 200 U.S. workers — many over age 50 — out of once-reliable jobs.

Despite the move a decade ago, Westin remains a chief supplier of auto parts sold under a brand trademarked by Indiana Senate candidate Mike Braun. Those ties put the Republican in a delicate spot as President Donald Trump vilifies China and other foreign competitors, riling up the GOP base.

While Braun’s campaign won’t say how much of his own parts line is made abroad, spokesman Josh Kelley acknowledged in an interview Thursday that Braun uses foreign-made products to stay competitive.

“He’s seen suppliers that used to make 100 percent of their products here in the U.S. and, thanks to unfair trade deals coming down from politicians in D.C., we’ve seen these jobs and products being forced overseas,” Kelley said.

It’s a justification they are unwilling to extend to Donnelly, who Braun accuses of being complicit in sending “jobs to Mexico and China.”

Yet earlier this month, the AP reported that much of Braun’s Promaxx brand is made in China.

Records reviewed since then show that Braun has a particularly close relationship with Westin Automotive, which outsourced work formerly done at its St. James, Minnesota, plant, to China and Taiwan between 2007 and 2008.

Braun has worked with Westin since at least 2008, the same year he launched Promaxx. That year, an auto parts distribution company he owns, Meyer Distributing, featured Westin in its catalog.

Since then, Westin — a major supplier of Promaxx-brand running boards, bumpers, brush guards and truck racks — has received more than 700 shipments of the same kind of products from China, including several shipments delivered directly to one of Braun’s warehouses, records show.

They’ve also teamed up to host jet ski and truck give-away competitions, while CEO Bob West has given the $2,700 maximum contribution to Braun’s campaign, Federal Election Commission records show.

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor found the laid-off workers in Minnesota — many of whom did not have easily adapted skills — faced dire circumstances.

“A significant number of workers at the firm are age 50 or over and possess skills that are not easily transferable,” a federal investigator concluded. “Competitive conditions within the industry are adverse.”

But as recently as 2015, Braun belonged to an economic development group that sought to “increase the public’s understanding of the positive impact of global trade.” In Indiana, the issue has been particularly resonant.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump made the plight of Carrier Corp. factory workers in Indianapolis a cause célèbre after company officials were captured in a viral video telling employees the plant would shut down and shift production to Mexico.

That secured Trump votes from many factory workers on his way to a 19-point victory in the state, said Chuck Jones, the recently retired president of United Steel Workers Local 1999. In Braun, Jones says he sees someone like Trump who is “just telling people what they want to hear.”

“People were looking for somebody who might give them a ray of hope,” said Jones who is a Democrat. “Some of these politicians, even though they were free-traders, like Mike Braun, they said, ‘Huh, it worked for Donald Trump, maybe it will work for me?’”

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