AP's Original Report on Obama at Master Lock Misstates His Related SOTU Statement

Today, President Obama visited Master Lock, a company he cited in his State of the Union speech on January 24 using the following words: "But right now, it's getting more expensive to do business in places like China. Meanwhile, America is more productive. A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home. Today, for the first time in fifteen years, Master Lock's unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity."

Now note how Ken Thomas's report at the Associated Press originally described (since revised) what Obama supposedly said:

Before going on an extended West Coast fundraising spree, the president was visiting Master Lock, a Milwaukee maker of padlocks that was cited in his State of the Union address for bringing back 100 jobs to the U.S. from China in response to higher labor and logistical costs in Asia.

(UPDATE: Thomas revised his text to exclude the specific 100-job SOTU reference shortly after this post was prepared, and moved the 100-job pickup to a separate paragraph. The original mistake was nonetheless made.)

What Thomas originally wrote is not what Obama said. If he had cited a situation involving only 100 jobs as proof that a wave of jobs is coming back during his State of the Union speech, even fellow Democrats might have laughed him out of the Capitol Building.

100 employees isn't even a really significant number to Master Lock's parent company, let alone the U.S. economy, as shown in the company's self-congratulatory press release on the night of Obama's speech:

President Obama highlighted Master Lock in his State of the Union address Tuesday night for moving jobs back to the U.S. from China. Since mid-2010, Master Lock has brought back approximately 100 union jobs to its Milwaukee factory.

... Master Lock is the world's largest manufacturer of padlocks and related security products providing innovative security solutions for home, automotive, campus, power sports, bike and storage security needs for consumers and contractors alike. Master Lock Company is an operating unit of Fortune Brands Home & Security, Inc.

Fortune Brands Home & Security, Inc. (NYSE: FBHS (has) 16,000 associates generated more than $3.2 billion in net sales in 2010.

Though of course any kind of pick-up in jobs is welcome, the following paragraph from Wikipedia illustrates that Master Lock itself is still a mere shadow of what it used to be in Milwaukee:

In 1999, Fortune Brands began to abandon most operations in its Milwaukee Wisconsin Master Lock factory, and moved most of its manufacturing jobs to offshore plants in China and Mexico, putting an estimated 1,300 American workers (represented by the United Auto Workers) out of work. In 2011, it was announced that 36 jobs making combination locks were being returned from China to the heavily-automated Milwaukee plant, which would now employ 379 workers. It would continue to contract with three Chinese factories, about twenty Chinese suppliers, and to operate its maquiladora near the Arizona border, where low-cost Mexican workers do non-automated, labor-intensive work, such as assembling made-in-Milwaukee components.

Jobs returning from China appears be a legitimate development, but it appears that one probable Team Obama requirement for exemplifying it -- that the facility involved had to be unionized and otherwise not politically embarrassing -- forced it to go with an example with so few jobs that it really exemplifies nothing.

Obama could easily have cited another company which has brought 2,000 jobs back from China, and it's even unionized. Trouble is, it would be a really inconvenient recipient of Obama administration praise:

According to BCG, another manufacturer, Sleek Audio, moved production of its headphones from Chinese suppliers to a plant in Florida. Ford Motor Company is bringing back 2,000 jobs from China after striking an agreement with the United Auto Workers.

We should all know why praising Ford would be seen as a really big faux pas.

Sleek Audio "estimate(s) that their orders from various U.S. companies now support 100 jobs" after it began to move work back to the U.S. in 2010.

As to the AP's coverage: Obama did not say what you originally claimed he said, Ken Thomas. Why did you think he did?

I don't even want to think about the cost per job of the White House's Master Lock hype.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.