April 24, 2014

UW moves to improve safety for Bangladeshi workers

Working to make sure UW licensed apparel is made under safe conditions. On the anniversary of a tragedy in Bangladesh, the UW is offering support to an international effort at improving working conditions there. On April 24, 2013, the eight-story Rana Plaza building, outside of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, collapsed during work hours, killing 1,134 people.

Cindy Van Matre, UW-Madison’s director of trademark licensing, said all 21 companies that disclosed sourcing, producing or purchasing any apparel from Bangladesh under a UW-Madison license will be required to sign onto the international Accord on Fire and Building Safety, by July 30th. So far, 11 of 21 have done so or indicated they will or intend to. “Most of them I think in the end will either end up signing on, or they know that will lose their license with the University of Wisconsin,” Van Matre said.

Van Matre said the amount of licensed UW merchandise that comes from Bangladesh is relatively small, with no licensees sourcing from more than four factories there. The university currently has contracts allowing 448 companies to make products bearing its name or logos.


Oshkosh Corporation announces over 700 layoffs

Military cutbacks are forcing another ripple effect at the Oshkosh Corporation. The company said today it would layoff about 700 hourly employees and 60 salaried workers beginning in June.

The head of the Oshkosh defense division, John Urias, said the firm went to “great lengths” to delay the impact of lower defense spending on the Oshkosh workforce. He said the firm carried out alternatives, such as not filling vacancies and using outside contractors, and it has tried pursuing relevant international opportunities for making vehicles. But now, Urias says Oshkosh must re-shape its workforce and return to peace-time operations.

Once the layoffs are complete, the company will have about 1,850 employees at its Oshkosh facilities.


Envelope maker closing Grand Chute facility

About 145 workers at a Grand Chute business will lose their job in two months.

Cenveo announced Wednesday that it’s closing the former National Envelope facility. The plant is one of several that the Connecticut-based company bought last September.

Cenveo envelope group president Mark Hiltwein says seven of their facilities across the country were covered under the same lease, and the landlord wasn’t willing to negotiate a renewal.

The workers will have the option to relocate to another Cenveo location.


Equal Pay Day keeps focus on equity

Keeping equal pay for women in the spotlight, April 9th is National Equal Pay Day, designated because it’s how far women had to work into 2013 to earn what men made last year.

“Women are still only making 78 cents per dollar of their male colleagues, and recognizing Equal Pay Day is really a way to raise this issue and make sure as policy makers that we’re doing everything in our power to address these inequities,” said state Representative Chris Taylor (D- Madison).

Conservatives dispute the pay gap, and in 2012 Governor Scott Walker signed a bill which repealed Wisconsin’s Pay Equity Enforcement Law, which had been in place for just two years.

“I think this is an issue that has very broad bipartisan support out there in the general population,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately things do get very politicized here in the Capitol. But this is really a no brainer for most Wisconsin families. It’s really necessary for their economic survival.”


Baldwin joins fight over product names (AUDIO)

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

The European Union wants to block the use of region-specific names on a variety of products not directly produced in those areas. The move could force changes on a long list of items made in Wisconsin, such as staples like Parmesan cheese, Bavarian beer, and even bratwurst.

The EU argues allowing those geographic indicators to be used on products made outside of a specific location weakens the name, although U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin contends that those terms have become so common that most consumers associate them with a specific type of product, not where they were made. The Wisconsin Democrat says that “frankly…some of our Wisconsin processors are making better forms of those products than the home countries.”

AUDIO: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (1:11)

Baldwin and a group of bipartisan lawmakers are calling on the US Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies to stand up for American businesses and resist all efforts to strip products of the region-specific names. She worries it could result in widespread confusion among consumers and make it difficult to market American-made products around the world.

KFIZ’s Bob Nelson contributed to this report.