October 31, 2014

Group sues Governor Walker to act on minimum wage

(WRN file photo)

(WRN file photo)

Advocates for a higher minimum wage want to force the governor to increase the rate; they hope to draw attention to the issue before the election.

Wisconsin Jobs Now is taking legal action, because its members say the current $7.25 an hour minimum wage is not a “living wage,” as required by law.

Jennifer Epps-Addison is director of the group. “Underpaid workers are suing Governor Walker to demand that he follow the law. Walker broke state law by denying valid complaints from underpaid workers without the due diligence of even a cursory investigation.”

The group is suing the governor as well as Reggie Newson, in his role as secretary of the Department of Workforce Development.

The lawsuit comes just a week before Election Day. Epps-Addison denies the filing is a political stunt. She says they have been focused on increasing the minimum wage for quite some time. “For the last year and a half workers have been demanding a raise in the minimum wage — both by going out on strike and by talking directly to elected officials.” She says, “Governor Walker has refused to hear those claims.”

Epps-Addison says the legal action is in response to the state’s rejection of more than 100 worker complaints regarding the current minimum wage, saying it does not comply with Wisconsin’s living wage law. The group is also responding to news that there was no adequate investigation on whether $7.25 is high enough to make ends meet. Walker’s Democratic opponent Mary Burke favors a wage of $10.10 an hour.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday. According to a new report from the MacIver Institute, more than 91,000 Wisconsinites would lose their job under a $15 an hour minimum wage. The group’s president Brett Healy says, “An increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour would be devastating for Wisconsin families and young people looking to establish a positive work history because many would lose their jobs.”

Mary Burke looks to President Obama to help boost voter turnout

Mary Burke rallies her supporters in Madison (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Mary Burke rallies her supporters in Madison (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

With Election Day rapidly approaching, the candidates in the race for governor are doing everything they can to motivate voters to show up at the polls.

Democratic candidate Mary Burke is hoping for a big boost with her base later tonight, when she takes the stage in Milwaukee alongside President Barack Obama. The president is coming to Wisconsin as a part of a series of campaign events this week in states with contested races for governor. He’s scheduled to speak early this evening at Milwaukee’s North Division High School.

Recent polls have shown Burke and incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker in a dead heat, with just a handful of likely voters still undecided. Burke says a visit from Obama “certainly increases awareness and excitement,” in the final days of the campaign.

Both Burke and Walker are maintaining busy schedules in the last full week of the campaign. Walker is on a bus tour to visit several cities, while Burke has appearances scheduled across the state as well. Burke says she’s “feeling great” because of the incredible support she’s receiving and the potential she sees for the state.

Obama is just the latest high profile political figure to campaign for Burke. Former-President Bill Clinton was in Milwaukee last Friday, while First Lady Michelle Obama has made two visits to Wisconsin this fall. Governor Walker on Monday continued to downplay President Obama’s visit, noting that major political figures have come out to support her in areas where she’s already likely to win by a large margin on November 4.

Kristen Smith sentenced to 25 years

A woman convicted of kidnapping her infant nephew and leaving him outside in a plastic storage bin in frigid temperatures has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson imposed the sentence Monday on 31-year-old Kristen Smith of Aurora, Colorado. Smith was found guilty on July 31, after a four-day trial in U.S. District Court in Madison.

Smith was accused of taking then five-day old Kayden Powell in the middle of the night last February, then leaving the infant in a storage bin behind a gas station in Iowa before she was taken into police custody. The police chief in West Branch, Iowa found Kayden more than a day later unharmed, despite the sub-zero temperatures outside.

At the trial, the evidence showed that Smith faked a pregnancy and kidnapped the infant with the intent to take him back to Colorado and claim him as her child. The jury reached their verdict after less than three hours of deliberation.

In sentencing Smith, Judge Peterson called her a liar and said, “You would have let the baby die rather than admit you had taken him.”

United States Attorney Vaudreuil said, “Kristen Smith left a baby outside in bitterly cold temperatures and for over 24 hours denied any knowledge of his whereabouts. Her callous disregard for this child’s life merits this long prison sentence.”

Flu season starts out strong

State health officials are urging residents to get their flu shots, with the flu season already starting to pick up in Wisconsin.

So far this year, Wisconsin Department of Health Services spokesperson Claire Smith says elderly patients seem to be getting hit hardest. “Quite a number of the hospitalizations are in the elderly. That’s a majority, and with the H3 strain it tends to hit the elderly harder.” Since the start of October, 20 hospitalizations due to the flu have been recorded in the state, and that number is expected to rise as the winter months approach.

Smith says getting the flu shot is good for you and those around you. She says “if you’re around people who are in a high risk group, you know people who are over age 65, have weakened immune systems, have chronic medical conditions, you not only want to get it to protect yourself but to also help from potentially spreading the flu to them.”

If you do manage to get infected, stay home. “Get rest, don’t be out there and infect others.” Smith says you can spread the flu even before you exhibit symptoms, and kids heading to school and workers heading to the office are great ways to pass the flu around.


Burke sees room for common ground

Mary Burke talks to reporters in Madison. (File Photo: Andrew Beckett)

Mary Burke talks to reporters in Madison. (File Photo: Andrew Beckett)

If Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke wins next week, she still faces the strong possibility of dealing with a Republican-controlled Legislature in the next session.

The state Assembly is expected to keep its Republican majority, while a few hotly contested races in the Senate mean control of that chamber remains uncertain. A Democratic governor and Republican Legislature could result in political grid-lock at the Capitol, although Burke says she’s ready for that possibility.

In an interview with WRN, Burke says she would approach that situation in the same way she has dealt with challenges in her whole career, by “making sure that we put common sense and good solutions, best practices ahead of the politics.”

Burke maintains that lawmakers and the governor are all on the same team when it comes to doing what’s best for Wisconsin, in terms of finding common ground. “I just don’t see things through this highly partisan political lens,” Burke says, noting that “we can work together” even if people are on different sides of the aisle. She also criticizes her opponent for a setting a tone that shows a “divide and conquer” approach to state government.

AUDIO:Mary Burke talks about dealing with Republican lawmakers (:44)

Burke faces incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker in the November 4 election, in a race that polls have consistently shown is a dead heat. As the campaign enters its final full week, she says the focus is on getting out and talking to voters about her vision for the state. Both she and Walker have a number of stops around Wisconsin planned in the run up to Election Day.