November 1, 2014

Oshkosh Defense cutting up to 370 workers

PHOTO: Oshkosh Defense

(Photo: Oshkosh Defense)

The Oshkosh Corporation is making another round of mass layoffs in its defense division.

John Daggett is a spokesman for the Oshkosh-based company. He says up to 300 hourly workers and 70 salary positions will be cut in December. Most of the salary position cuts will be temporary employees, early retirements, and leaving open positions unfilled.

Daggett says the move is necessary because U.S. military spending is down significantly.

The company cut 700 workers last July and 900 the summer before. Oshkosh Defense will still employ 1,800 workers in Oshkosh, and other facilities around the world, after the cuts.


Wisconsin DWD rejects living wage complaints

The state Department of Workforce Development has rejected living wage complaints made by workers last month

A coalition of labor groups filed the complaints in late September, claiming that Wisconsin’s minimum wage is too low and represents an unsupportable wage. The effort was meant to trigger an obscure state statute that compels the governor to ensure the state’s minimum wage is a “living wage.”

DWD responded to the complaints on Monday, saying “there is no reasonable cause to believe that wages paid to the complainants are not a living wage.”

Wisconsin Jobs Now executive director Jennifer Epps-Addison calls the finding outrageous, considering so many people are struggling to get by on the state’s minimum wage. “In this day and age, there’s not a single person in this state who believes a working family can survive on $7.25.”

She says it was disrespectful for the state to dismiss the complaints without even following up, or holding a hearing, or taking any actual testimony. She argues it “shows a complete disregard for the working people of the state” by Governor Scott Walker and his administration.

Governor Walker has frequently voiced opposition to increasing the state or federal minimum wage, arguing such action could actually reduce the number of jobs available and “put a buzz saw” to the state’s economic recovery.

Epps-Addison says workers will continue fighting for an increase and have not ruled out taking legal action.

AUDIO: Wisconsin Jobs Now executive director Jennifer Epps-Addison reacts to DWD findings.

World Dairy Expo set to open in Madison

(Photo: World Dairy Expo)

(Photo: World Dairy Expo)

Madison will become the center of the dairy universe this week, as the World Dairy Expo begins its five-day run.

State Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel calls the event a “gem” for Dane County and Wisconsin, attracting up to 70,000 people to various activities during the week. Visitors come from across the country and from more than 90 foreign countries.

The economic impact of the show in the Madison area alone is estimated at over $15 million. Brancel says it helps other areas as well, since many trade groups hold their annual meetings in Wisconsin this time of year to take advantage of the show. Many visitors also travel to agricultural vendors and operations around the state, where they tour facilities and purchase products.

The expo is Tuesday through Saturday.


AARP Wisconsin opposes utility rate hike requests

Senior advocates are pushing back, on proposed electricity rate hikes. Helen Marks Dicks, state issues advocacy director for AARP Wisconsin said seniors, as well as utility customers in many parts of the state, could lose control of their energy bills, if a request from We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service and Madison Gas & Electric for an increase in fixed customer charges gains approval from the state Public Service Commission.

“The electrical utilities are trying to significantly up the charges on what they call the fixed rate. That’s how much money you pay just to get the electricity to come into the house. That’s before you turn on the lights,” Marks Dicks explained.

Marks Dicks said WPS is requesting the largest increase in fixed rate fees, going from $10.50 a month to around $25, and We Energies wants to boost them from $9.50 to $16. “We think this is bad for seniors, we think this is bad for low-income people. We thinks it’s a step in the wrong direction,” Marks Dicks said, adding that WPS charged a fixed rate of $5.70 just two years ago.

The Public Service Commission held a hearing in Madison this week for the WPS request, and has additional hearings scheduled in Madison and Milwaukee next month, on the MG&E and We Energies requests.

Walker wants more from Wisconsin assistance recipients



Governor Scott Walker wants more from recipients of unemployment assistance and food stamps. In a second term, Walker would require drug testing for those requesting unemployment assistance. At a stop in Wausau on Monday, Walker said that’s what employers want.

“They tell us they have basic, entry level jobs, where they’d be happy to hire people and train them themselves, except for two problems. They have people that have basic employability skills, and they have people that can’t pass drug tests,” Walker said.

Drug tests would also be required for able bodied adults requesting food stamps. And working-age childless adults receiving food stamps or unemployment benefits would have to participate in employment training or part-time work.

“Over the next two year budget cycle we actually believe it would save us money, because we believe there would be fewer people who would stay on assistance than there have been in the past,” Walker said. “Our goal with all this is ultimately to transition more people into the workplace, because we think it’s better for them, it’s better for employers, and it’s most importantly probably better for the taxpayers.”

The requirements are part of Walker’s “Continuing Wisconsin’s Comeback” outline for the next four years. Walker said he will also:

  •  Cut property taxes so the levy on a typical home in 2018 is lower than it was in 2010.
  •  Reduce income taxes so they are lower in 2018 than they are today.
  •  Provide tax relief for manufacturing and agriculture.
  •  Fight Obamacare, which is raising health insurance premiums for many in Wisconsin.
  •  Expand worker training investments.
  •  Freeze technical college tuition and continue the UW System tuition freeze.
  •  Establish accountability measures for all schools receiving public funding.
  •  Establish high standards for students at the local and state level as an alternative to measures set by people outside of Wisconsin.
  •  Put common sense limits on the time able-bodied, working age childless adults can be on public assistance.