INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Oklahoma truck driver Timothy Jackson was recovering from emergency heart
surgery when he learned he’d lost his job - and his health insurance along
with it - because managers at the company’s Indiana headquarters decided he
wasn’t healthy enough to work.
multimillionaire who owns that business and several others, former Indiana
state Rep. Mike Braun, is locked in a bitter Republican primary with two
congressmen for the right to challenge Democrat Joe Donnelly in one of the
nation’s most closely watched Senate races.
Braun has blamed
“career politicians” for outsourcing good-paying jobs overseas, while
pledging he’ll help bring them back. Yet when it comes to his own business
empire, which includes a handful of interrelated companies, Braun’s record
falls far short of his campaign rhetoric, a review by The Associated Press
a Jasper-based national auto parts distribution company Braun owns, does
brisk business importing goods from the same overseas countries he has
criticized for taking American jobs. He also has accepted government
subsidies, despite criticizing the practice.
And lawsuits filed
against his companies - backed up by federal trucking and labor records -
present a picture of a boss who has overworked and underpaid employees.
That could blunt
charges of hypocrisy Braun has leveled against Donnelly, a longtime
outsourcing critic who sold stock in a family business after the AP reported
the company owned a factory in Mexico. It also opens him up to similar
charges from his GOP opponents in the May 8 primary, Luke Messer and Todd
Rokita, whom he has accused of saying one thing on the campaign trail only
to “do something else when you get to D.C.”
Josh Kelley said Braun tries to distribute American-made goods but faces
profitability challenges in a global economy. He also denied that workers
are treated poorly.
However, over the
past decade, workers have sued in West Virginia, Oklahoma and California,
alleging they were forced to work long hours in unsafe conditions and denied
overtime pay, meal times and breaks.
In March 2016,
Jackson, the Oklahoma truck driver, was recovering at home from emergency
surgery to fix a heart defect when his local manager hand-delivered a letter
informing him that he had been fired. Jackson’s boss told him it “was not up
to him” - a detail confirmed in a company court filing that acknowledged
Jackson was fired because managers doubted he could do his job.
Braun often touts
his companies’ heath care coverage, which he re-engineered to reduce costs
by requiring that employees pay more upfront. He says it provides “better
coverage” while being “less paternalistic.”
employee alleged in 2009 that withheld overtime was paid only after he filed
a formal complaint. The employee said he was fired days later in
retaliation, according to court records. He settled out of court.
In 2014, a West
Virginia driver alleged he was forced to falsify log books to conceal time
spent on the road that exceeded federal regulations that limit driving time
to 11 hours per day. The employee says he was fired after he refused to keep
up a schedule that “demanded 16 to 18 hour days,” according to court
records. That lawsuit also was settled out of court.
of Transportation records show Braun’s operation has been cited 55 times
since September 2015 for unsafe driving violations and 41 times for truck
driver “hours of service” violations. Additionally, Meyer was cited 26 times
for wage and overtime pay violations between 2008 and 2010, according to the
U.S. Department of Labor.
His campaign says
Meyer’s safety rating is better than the industry average.
Braun, whose net
worth is somewhere between $37 million and $95 million, has often compared
himself to President Donald Trump because both grew wealthy in the private
sector before entering politics.
live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” said Julia Vaughn, policy
director of the liberal-leaning good government group Common Cause Indiana.
“I’m always concerned when candidates talk about wanting to run government
like business because people who are extremely successful in business
sometimes get there by cutting corners and treating employees unfairly.”
While Braun has
used his wealth to run a blitz of ads criticizing politicians for putting
“Mexico before Muncie” and “Beijing before Bloomington,” he hasn’t always
been a critic of free trade and outsourcing.
As a state
legislator, he voted in 2016 against bipartisan “clawback” legislation that
would have allowed Indiana governments to recoup financial incentives given
to companies that move jobs abroad. The legislation was proposed in the wake
of Carrier Corp. announcing that it was moving hundreds of manufacturing
jobs from Indianapolis to Mexico.
Dozens of foreign
or foreign-owned auto parts companies do business with Braun, according to
Meyer Distributing’s website. The company has received repeated shipments of
foreign made goods over the past five years, most of which are from China,
according to records maintained by the trade tracking website Import Genius.
During a February
debate, however, he denied knowing where the parts he sells come from.
“I deal with
American manufacturers. We buy their products. I don’t know where they get
them made,” Braun said.
criticized online shopping giant Amazon, which has named Indianapolis as a
potential site for a second corporate headquarters. At a campaign event,
Braun said he is not in favor of granting incentives in such situations,
suggesting companies “shouldn’t be subsidized by the government.”
pursued similar job creation incentives over the last six years, which are
set to pay out at least $2 million, records show.
campaign’s spokesman, said Braun would stand up for workers should he be
“Mike will be a
voice for the little guy, and will show the same commitment to Hoosiers that
he’s demonstrated to employees at Meyer over the last 35 years,” Kelley