(Updated 4:55 p.m.) U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy kicked off his jobs tour Monday at an aerospace manufacturing company in Manchester promising to listen to both employers and employees as he fleshes out his jobs plan for his U.S. Senate campaign and beyond.
“The first thing that’s going to be a little different about this tour today is I’m going to spend some time listening to Mike and Paul and what they think Connecticut’s next senator should be doing to grow jobs. I’m then going to spend some time walking in the shoes of AdChem’s employees,” Murphy said Monday in opening the tour.
And while that’s exactly what he did, the company’s president seemed dismayed at how the press conference went following Murphy’s opening remarks.
After a 10-minute introduction to the “jobs tour” Murphy asked if the media or the AdChem Manufacturing Technologies employees had any questions for him.
The handful of reporters present were quick to ask about eight minutes of questions before Murphy started his tour of the facility, which included speaking one-on-one with employees.
Michael Polo, president and founder of AdChem Manufacturing Technologies, said his 48 employees, who stood behind the media, are very engaged and had a number of questions for Mr. Murphy, but what happened today was “the media took over.”
The employees “got totally disengaged because it was all about an election,” Polo said. “It wasn’t about us at all.”
He said as soon as the media started asking questions about Republican Linda McMahon, one of the two Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, his employees’ eyes “glazed over.”
He said his employees are interested in manufacturing and how it’s being thought about at the state and federal level by elected officials. The questions from the media focused on the difference between McMahon’s jobs plan, released a few months ago, and the “five pillars” Murphy outlined Monday.
But Polo, whose company has been used as a backdrop for various politicians—including a stop in 2010 by then U.S. Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York—was far from critical of Murphy.
“Just coming out and talking to companies and employees is a big plus,“ Polo said.
Polo said his interest lies in workforce development issues and sharing them with his employees makes them better citizens, not just employees. He said he would be just as welcoming to McMahon if her campaign called like Murphy’s campaign did and asked to visit with his employees.
“It’s all about letting our employees know who is running, what they stand for, how they vote, then they make their own decisions,” Polo said. “The more information the employees and us get, the better off we are.”
He said a lot of their questions probably wouldn’t have centered on manufacturing per say, but their needs such as health insurance. He said health insurance continues to climb 18 to 20 percent a year and the company can’t cover dependents, just employees.
Murphy said in a phone interview later Monday afternoon that one of the employees he spoke to was concerned about the rising cost of health insurance for her children. Another was worried about training opportunities for parts inspectors and yet another was concerned about how the state would be able to keep aerospace jobs in Connecticut as Pratt & Whitney prepares to increase its engine production.
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Asked how his approach was different than McMahon‘s, Murphy said he only knows one way to do this job, “which is to have the ideas of the people I represent become my ideas.”
He said he’s learned to do his job by listening and his campaign for U.S. Senate won’t be any different.
“That’s what I’m going to do at every stop on this tour. I’m going to learn the business from the employer and then I’m going to take some time to do the job,” Murphy said.
“I’m going to listen and I’m going to act on the advice that I get,” he added attempting to differentiate himself from his opponents.
The former wrestling executive Linda McMahon released her jobs plan in March at a woodworking company in Newington. It calls for lowering middle class taxes and eliminating capital gain taxes for the same segment of the population. It also calls for reducing the federal corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.
Murphy alleged McMahon’s plan, which calls for a one percent cut in spending each year in order to pay for the tax cuts, called for a dramatic cut in federal education funding. However, McMahon‘s plan doesn‘t specify where the cuts should be made. It simply says defense spending won’t be included as part of those cuts.
Confronted with the misrepresentation of McMahon’s plan, Murphy replied: “If you don’t have a jobs plan that calls for increases in education and job training then you don’t have a jobs plan.”
“Not only does Congressman Murphy not have a jobs or education plan, he’s never actually had a real job,” Erin Isaac, spokeswoman for the McMahon campaign, said. “His ‘work in progress’ is more of the same policies that got us into this economic mess: higher taxes and more spending.”
Murphy’s broad outline of a plan calls for simplifying the tax code and eliminating exemptions for big businesses, extending the Bush tax cuts for 99 percent of American workers, and eliminating the tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent and applying it toward college tuition or job training.
Murphy’s plan, which is still a “work in progress,” also calls for a return to American manufacturing, and investments in education and infrastructure. In addition, he wants to reduce carbon emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and leave it up to the market to decide which technologies win or lose in order to meet that standard.
“Now listen, I haven’t been around politics for very long,” Murphy, 38, who has been in elected office 13 years, said.
“But I have watched a lot of candidates or elected officials who think that just by stopping by a business for an hour that they demonstrate that they know what it takes to get jobs started here in Connecticut. They show up with their entourage. They get a quick tour of the business from the owner. They spend most of their time telling the employer and employees what they think should happen to get Connecticut business started.”
Murphy’s second stop on the tour Monday was Total Image Beauty and Barber in Stamford where he expected to be sweeping hair off the floor while talking to employees.