By Karen Stokes
Republican Tim Michels currently campaigning for Governor of Wisconsin against Incumbent Democratic Governor Tony Evers has a history of being a business owner but not a history of diversity.
Michels is a co-owner of the family business, the Michels Corp., a privately-held company based in Brownsville, WI, in Dodge County. The company has seen spectacular growth over the last 25 years, growing “from a few hundred employees to a… multi-faceted construction company with more than 8,000 employees,” information from his campaign.
Public records Michels was required to file with Urbana, Illinois show that between 2011 and 2022 Michels Corporation’s demographics never surpassed 3% Black, 8.2% Hispanic, 0.5% Asian or Pacific Islander, and 1.5% Native American or Alaska Native employees, and never dipped below 88% White employees.
The lack of diversity was even more pronounced at the top rungs of the corporate ladder. In 2022, 97.8% of Michels’ managers or officials were white, zero were Black and two were Hispanic, while 96.4% of Michels’ employees listed as professionals were white, with zero listed as Black and one as Hispanic.
In 2016, 96.2% of Michels’ managers or officials were white, only five were Black and nineteen were Hispanic, while 95.4% of Michels’ employees listed as professionals were white, with only one listed as Black and seven Hispanic. In 2015, of the 313 officials or managers at the company, 96.8% were white and only 0.6% were Black. 1.3% were Hispanic.
Michels Corp’s lack of diversity was far worse than national averages in the construction industry. In 2016, the last year for which both Michels’ employee and construction industry national average information was available, Michels Corp was 90.3% white compared to the construction industry national average of 62.5% white, 6.1% Hispanic compared to the national average off 28.9% Hispanic, 1.6% Black compared to the national average of 5% Black, and 0.4% Asian compared to the national average of 1.7% Asian.
There has also been accusations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination at the construction company Michels co-owns.
Female and minority workers who worked for a Brownsville construction company co-owned by the Republican gubernatorial candidate were allegedly subjected to sexual assault and harassment, racial discrimination and a hostile work environment, according to federal court cases spanning over two decades.
Most of the wide-ranging allegations in five lawsuits filed between 1998-2020 occurred on job sites in other states, with one in Wisconsin, while Tim Michels and his brothers ran the company.
Federal court documents reveal three former female employees separately sued Michels Corporation in 1998, and twice in 2012, claiming they faced repeated verbal and at times physical abuse, and some were pressured to have sex with male coworkers.
The company was also sued by workers who were Black, most recently in 2020, over allegations of racial hostility including a report of a noose found near a jobsite.
Michels has previously described his role at Michels Corp as being “responsible for everything,” including for “safety,” across the company and touted his “great executive leadership.”
According to npr.org, self-described political newcomer Tim Michels spent millions of his own dollars on a TV ad blitz, painting himself as a businessman and “outsider” who wants to turn government upside down.
Michels touts that he isn’t a career politician but that isn’ from the lack of trying.
In 1998, Michels made a bid for the state Senate and received 30 percent of the vote in the Republican primary, losing to incumbent senator Scott L. Fitzgerald. In 2004, Michels ran for the U.S. Senate. He lost the general election to Russ Feingold, 55% to 44%.