Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild is going after her Republican challenger Lisa Scheller, the CEO of Silberline Manufacturing, for slashing her U.S. workforce and shipping those jobs to countries like China, Canada, and Mexico. Scheller shut down one Lansford, Pennsylvania, manufacturing plant that was unionized with the United Steelworkers, located in the very district she’s running in. Wild and Scheller are vying to represent Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District in one of the most competitive House races of the 2022 midterm season. The race, which recently shifted in Wild’s favor to “Democrat toss-up,” could swing party control of the chamber.
Under Scheller’s leadership, Silberline Manufacturing has reduced its domestic workforce by 60 percent, closing factories in Pennsylvania and other states, and making millions by opening multiple factories overseas. Since Scheller took over as CEO in 1997, Silberline Manufacturing has laid off over a hundred workers in Pennsylvania, and outsourced at least 262 jobs in the United States. Overall, she has led the opening of four of Silberline’s foreign facilities and the closures of two American manufacturing plants, including one in Carbon County, Pennsylvania.
“I don’t have to be the one to tell you that Lisa Scheller is more concerned with raking in money and protecting her corporation’s profits than looking out for American jobs,” Wild said at a press conference outside a shuttered Silberline factory last week. “You already know that, and Lisa knows it too.”
During the pandemic, Silberline Manufacturing received over $5 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans, as part of a program Congress created to help give business owners money to cover payroll and other costs to retain American jobs during the shutdowns. In December 2021, Silberline Asia-Pacific executive Michael Lowe announced that the manufacturing company had begun construction on a new plant in China. “It will become one of our global production centers and comprise state-of-the-art technology,” Lowe said in an interview with CEO Magazine. The plant is set to open in 2023, and would become Silberline’s third facility in China.
Scheller has been touting her experience and record as CEO of Silberline on the campaign trail. “As a job creator, Lisa understands what it takes to grow the economy,” her campaign website says. “Lisa will help manufacturers and industries critical to Pennsylvania’s economic success hire new workers and expand production in the U.S.” Wild’s campaign has been bringing labor issues and Scheller’s profiteering to the forefront of the race to try to make the case that Scheller isn’t fit to represent the largely working-class district.
From 2003 and 2020, 12 OSHA inspections had been conducted at Silberline Manufacturing, and the company fined a total of $15,000 for health and safety hazards. Employees reported Silberline to the National Labor Relations Board four times during this same period, for violations like bad faith bargaining, refusing to bargain, refusing to furnish information, and modifying or repudiating contracts, according to NLRB filings.
In 2020, Scheller’s campaign website claimed she had “created thousands of good paying jobs” in her role at Silberline. When pressed by a local radio host, Scheller maintained that she had never exported a single U.S. job, as the Morning Call reported at the time. The Labor Department’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program determined in 2018 that 55 Indiana workers who had lost jobs were eligible for assistance because Silberline Manufacturing “has shifted to a foreign country the production of an article like or directly competitive with the article produced by the [Indiana] workers which contributed importantly to worker group separations.”
“For Lisa Scheller to have the audacity to talk about being for working people and creating jobs — if this is what creating jobs looks like, that’s creating jobs in China and not in the United States,” Bernie Hall, USW District 10 Director, said outside the closed Silberline factory. “I drove over five hours to be here today. And that’s because it’s pissing me off, that 170 some workers lost jobs here.”
Scheller’s stake in the company lies somewhere between $25 million and $50 million, according to her 2022 financial disclosure. (Candidates report a range of value for their assets, not exact amounts.) A recent Daily Beast article has also raised questions about a subsidiary, Silberline Mauritius Limited, which Scheller created in 2005 with help from an international tax expert and shares an address with “at least five companies that appeared in the notorious Panama Paper leaks.”
In addition to her six-figure salary, Scheller reported making millions more in investment income, listing individual stock holdings in over 30 companies, including Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, and Big Pharma giants like Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson. “I don’t trade any individual stocks,” Wild told More Perfect Union. “I’ve been around for a while, I’ve saved money in my retirement accounts and that kind of thing but I do not trade any individual stocks, and a big part of the reason is I don’t want to be conflicted when I’m taking votes in Congress.”
“My opponent has not committed to putting her vast holdings into a blind trust,” Wild continued. “A blind trust by the way, is only as good as the terms of the blind trust so that’s another issue. But she’s invested in Big Oil, she’s invested in Big Pharma, I don’t know how you could possibly go to Congress and represent the people on issues like pharmaceutical prices and oil prices when you’re invested in those industries. I have a huge problem with that and I think the American people should also be very, very concerned with that.”