February 13, 2016

Littoral combat ships face Congressional concerns

A Navy ship building program that supports thousands of Wisconsin jobs could be downsized, as the ships face continued criticism.

U-S Senators John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed said in a letter earlier this month that the Navy should delay deploying its littoral combat ships until more testing is done.

The Marinette Marine Corporation shipyard employs about two-thousand people building the ships, which are designed for operations in shallow, coastal waters.

Three have been delivered so far, and seven more, at around 479 million dollars each, are currently in various stages of construction in Marinette.

Prospective buyer for Prentice Caterpillar plant

There’s some good news for employees at the Caterpillar plant in Prentice. The Prentice facility that makes forest products for Caterpillar has been the target for acquisition by one of Caterpillar’s vendors, Ritalka, Inc.

Ritalka owner Kevin Wald confirmed he’s been negotiating with the heavy equipment maker since last fall, but they haven’t reached a deal. If Ritalka is able to acquire the Prentice plant, they may eventually expand it. for now, Wald will continue negotiating in hopes of closing the deal by the end of the year.

Caterpillar has said it move production out of Prentice by the end of the year, impacting 220 workers.


Ariens Company fires seven Muslim workers over prayer breaks

The Ariens Company says it has fired seven of its Muslim workers for continuing to take unscheduled breaks for prayer.

The Brillion-based company began enforcing a policy last month that requires workers to stay on the assembly line, other than during scheduled breaks. The issue had become a problem because of 53 employees were leaving at set times of day for prayers, in accordance with their Muslim faith.

Ariens officials said those absences were disrupting work at the facility, which could cost them upwards of $1 million a year in lost productivity.

The company, which makes lawnmowers and snow blowers, said it was simply enforcing an existing policy on unscheduled breaks, which became an issue as dozens of employees started to violate the rule.

In a statement, a company spokeswoman said they had worked directly with the workers on an individual basis, in order to reach the best possible outcome. In the end, 32 employees chose to stay on and work under the break policy, another 14 resigned, and seven were terminated for continuing to take unscheduled breaks.

The statement read “We handled this with the same straightforward approach we use every day at Ariens Company. Recognizing there are language barriers and cultural differences, we allowed for extra time. We would have liked for more of the employees to stay, however, we respect their faith, we respect the work they have done for Ariens Company and we respect their decisions.”

New Glarus Brewing planning to offer canned beer

(Photo: New Glarus Brewing Company)

(Photo: New Glarus Brewing Company)

UPDATE: An employee with the company contacted WRN and said that the initial post on the Brewery’s Instagram account mistakenly labeled a new keg line machine as “can line.” The company is not adding cans to its product line at this time.

Original story follows:

A popular Wisconsin beer maker will be giving customers a new option for drinking their brew.

New Glarus Brewing has traditionally offered its beer in bottles, but a post on the company’s Instagram account states they’ll soon be offering beer in cans as well.

The company produces six styles of beer year-round, in addition to seasonal brews. For some beers, the can option offers “better quality control,” according to New Glarus.

New Glarus beers are only sold in Wisconsin.

The brewing company was founded in 1993 by Deb Carey, along with her husband – the master brewer – Dan Carey.

Bill would ease sales of Wisconsin water utilities

photo (6)A bill advancing at the Capitol could make it easier to sell public water utilities in Wisconsin to private investors.

A state Senate committee approved the measure (AB 554) in a partisan vote on Thursday. The full Assembly has already passed the bill.

Critics say the legislation would make it more difficult to put such sales to a public referendum. The bill’s language states that referendums would be optional rather than mandatory.

Curt Witynski is with the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, which supports the bill. “We’re not supportive of direct democracy for every single policy decision that local government makes,” he said.

“The bill makes it much harder, and introduces hurdles, to getting that public voice involved in the process,” said Amber Meyer Smith, a lobbyist for Clean Wisconsin. “It really seems counter intuitive to have a bill that actually is encouraging private, for profit out-of-state companies to come in and own our water.”

Opponents of the bill say customer rates have often increased in the wake of water utilities being sold to for profit operators.

Some have also suggested that the bill’s passage could put Wisconsin communities for the sort of crisis afflicting the residents of Flint, Michigan, where the city’s drinking water contains dangerously toxic levels of lead.

“I honestly don’t understand the connection (to Flint) whatsoever,” said Witynski. He said the bill changes the process for selling a water utility, while the situation in Flint represents a systemic failure by local, state and federal officials to protect the city’s residents.

According to lobbying information from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, the bill is also supported by Aqua America, Inc., a water and wastewater utility holding company with subsidiaries in 8 states including Illinois.