During his visit to Winnebago Industries in Forest City on Tuesday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence wasn’t shy about calling the RV manufacturer a crucial part of the “Great American Comeback” around which President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign has framed its reelection bid.
At least a half-dozen times, Pence — who was joined by Gov. Kim Reynolds and state Sen. Randy Feenstra — used the phrase while also thanking the 200 to 250 socially distanced Winnebago employees who turned out to hear him speak.
“The comeback today would not have been possible without your work,” Pence told the crowd which included former Iowa Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake.
Through May 2020, the national unemployment rate is at 13.3 percent, which dropped from 14.7 percent in April.
In mid-April, Winnebago laid off 79 employees due to the COVID-19 crisis affecting the demand for the company’s products.
Before his speech, Pence toured the facility with Gov. Kim Reynolds and Jim Mullen, deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
When Winnebago decided to shut its factory in late March, Winnebago Industries President and CEO Michael Happe said one of the first phone calls he made was to Reynolds.
“I wanted her to know firsthand how serious of a decision this was for us as a major employer in the state to care for the safety of our employees,” Happe recalled, “that we would work to take care of those employees from a health care support standpoint and that we would look to reopen safely and return our team to work when the time was right.”
One employee at the event, Lydia Thompson, said that it was good that Pence wanted to visit Forest City and see how people do things at Winnebago Industries.
“I think Pence and President (Donald) Trump are doing the best job they can and they’re doing a great job,” Thompson said.
Jonathan River, another employee at Winnebago, said he got to speak with Pence beforehand and called it “amazing.”
Along with employees, there were also 50 protesters marching along nearby 335th Street and South Fourth Street in Forest City who could be heard during several of the quieter moments of Pence’s speech.
What’s going on
In recent weeks, the Trump administration has been criticized by some for its handling of nationwide protests that were sparked by the deaths of black Americans such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police.
Trump has called for stronger presences from police and the military.
Tuesday morning, Trump signed an executive order that would “leverage federal grant money to encourage police departments to meet a set of standards, including a ban on chokeholds except when an officer’s life is at risk,” according to NBC.
Pence mentioned the signing during his Forest City speech and said the administration will continue to move an agenda that “promotes public safety.”
Also during his speech, Pence said America leads the world in testing for the coronavirus.