The MEA, which boasts a membership list, which includes Volvo and Tyco, as well as Mills Manufacturing — which was raided by federal immigration agents in August — is a nonprofit affiliate of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and advocate for the manufacturing community in Western North Carolina. MEA President Jeff Imes said the board’s decision was made during an Oct. 23 meeting.
“Based on the Dr. Mumpower’s comments and actions, the Executive Board of the Manufacturers Executive Association can not justifiably support his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives,” reads a statement issued by Imes. “He is not conversant about the immigration issue in this country and is not really interested in engaging with area manufacturers.”
Imes notes that conservatives and the manufacturing community typically share a pro-business stance, especially when it comes time to campaign. But Mumpower’s attacks have left a historically safe voting bloc cold, he said.
“He’s completely alienated anybody who would vote for him,” Imes told Xpress. “In an election, you usually shore up your base. I think he’s eroding his traditional base.”
Following the raid at Mills Manufacturing, MEA sent a letter to Mumpower inviting him appear before the board and participate in “an open discussion and dialogue ... to review the immigration issue and policies in this country and its affect on local manufacturers.”
But, less than a month later, the board retracted that invitation after Mumpower continued to blame local employers for exacerbating the problem of illegal workers.
“He wasn’t open to a discussion,” Imes told Xpress. “He just wanted a platform to air his views.”
In a statement of his own, Mumpower (who has taken to calling himself a “Mountain Maverick” on his campaign Web site), responded to the rescinded invitation.
"The MEA of WNC is absolutely correct that I am entrenched in my position on illegal immigration. I have absolutely no sympathy for American companies who fund the flood of illegals into this country with jobs and money.”
Imes says that manufacturers are limited in their ability to confirm the eligibility of workers and that the immigration battle is more appropriately fought at the federal level, arguments that Mumpower has dismissed repeatedly, including in his response to the MEA.
"The MEA and the Chamber of Commerce could make a major difference in creating action on illegal immigration. Instead, I believe they have conspired behind a mask of legitimacy to exploit this cheap imported labor pool and the rest of us who are picking up the hidden costs. I can understand why they would not want me to have direct access to their membership — they are not accustomed to being called cowards."
For more on this story, see the Nov. 5 edition of Xpress.
— Brian Postelle, staff writer
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