FRI AM News: WisBusiness: the Podcast with Emily Pritzkow, Wisconsin Building Trades Council; COWS report shows progress in reducing wage disparities

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— This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: the Podcast” is with Emily Pritzkow, executive director of the Wisconsin Building Trades Council. 

Although the organization includes member unions that have existed for over a century, it was founded more recently in 2018. It includes every unionized construction craft in the state, she explains, with about 40,000 total members across Wisconsin. 

Some of the group’s current objectives include boosting talent pipelines such as apprenticeship programs, touting the economic impact of union-built projects and spotlighting challenges and policy priorities for members, Pritzkow explains. 

“The importance of being treated and paid fairly, having a meaningful career that allows you to build a strong future for you and your family, and having safe working conditions that allow our members to return home to that family each night,” she said. 

Pritzkow also discusses the impact of the pandemic on worker attitudes and unionization efforts, pointing to higher demand for better working conditions. 

“I think there’s also no more important time than now for us to make diversity and inclusion a priority — especially in the construction trades,” she said. “Diverse perspectives are sorely needed to help us evolve.” 

She also touches on the federal dollars coming to the state through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, as well as the push for more renewable energy resources and efforts to address workforce issues. 

Listen to the podcast here:  

See the full list of podcasts: 

— A new report from a UW-Madison think tank shows wage growth in the past two years has helped to close some of the state’s “pronounced racial and ethnic disparities.” 

The “State of Working Wisconsin” report, from the progressive policy-focused Center on Wisconsin Strategy, shows the strongest wage growth by percentage was seen for Black women in the state between 2019 and 2021. 

While wages were up 14 percent for Black women in the state, Black men’s wages were 2.9 percent higher. Wages for Hispanic women were up 4.2 percent over the two-year period and wages for Hispanic men were 5.2 percent higher. Meanwhile, white women’s wages were up 9.1 percent while white men’s wages fell 2.3 percent. 

Still, white men in the state continued to have the highest median wages in 2021 at $23.11 per hour. Median wages for other groups were: $17.68 per hour for Black men; $17.12 for Hispanic men; $20.81 for white women; $17.17 for Black women; and $15.51 for Hispanic women. 

“The state’s ethnic and racial wage gaps remain substantial, but have diminished slightly over the last two years,” report authors wrote. 

They point to two explanations for the strong wage growth seen in the past two years: sustained economic growth preceding the pandemic “finally” showing up in workers’ paychecks; and COVID-19 shutdowns displacing low-wage workers more than those with higher incomes. That includes workers at restaurants, bars and hotels. 

“Median wages rose during the shutdowns because lower wage workers lost their jobs,” they wrote. “This likely also explains part of the dynamic in wage growth in 2020. As lower wage workers returned to their jobs in 2021, this compositional impact has faded.” 

The report also highlights record-high employment levels in Wisconsin, and explores the impact of the state’s aging population on the workforce. 

“Employers’ difficulty in filling jobs is not about Wisconsinites being dependent on government handouts,” report authors argue. “It is about the workforce shrinking as more age out of work than come into it. This shift is especially acute in the state’s rural counties where the aging workforce is most concentrated.” 

See the full report: 

— About 88,000 rural locations in Wisconsin could be left without expected broadband coverage after the FCC rejected an application for federal funding from LTD Broadband. 

According to a release from the federal agency, the Nevada-based company failed to meet the requirements for funding under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program. The FCC called its proposal “risky” and said it wouldn’t be the best use of the program’s funding. 

The agency’s decision earlier this month came after LTD Broadband got initial approval for about $1.3 billion in December 2020 by submitting winning bids in 15 states including Wisconsin. But after the company failed to obtain required carrier status in seven of those states, a review of the company’s long-form application found it “was not reasonably capable of deploying a network of the scope, scale, and size required by LTD’s extensive winning bids.” 

In an email, FCC officials said the company received initial approval to serve 88,070 estimated locations in Wisconsin. But they added “this number is just an estimate since a location could include more than one broadband customer if, for example, it is a multi-housing unit.” 

A PSC spokesperson explained LTD Broadband was allocated over 50 percent of the RDOF dollars coming to Wisconsin and was to expand broadband coverage to over 36 percent of the rural locations eligible for this funding. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the company will be appealing the decision. LTD Broadband did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

See the FCC’s decision: 

— State officials have announced nearly $450,000 in manufacturing training grants for 16 school districts. 

According to a release from Gov. Tony Evers, the grants will go toward programs for nearly 2,800 students. Supported training will cover things like robotics, welding, related software, 3D printing, drones, other equipment and more. 

Awards range from $5,000 to $50,000 and come from the state Department of Workforce Development’s Wisconsin Fast Forward Program. 

See the list of grant recipients here: 

— Health officials have created a new site where state residents can order free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests. 

According to a release from the Department of Health Services, residents can use the Say Yes! COVID Test website to order a package of five rapid antigen tests at no cost. DHS says each household can order one package that will arrive in one to two weeks, based on initial supplies. 

“It is critical for Wisconsinites to have access to a COVID-19 test when they need one, and this program delivers tests right to their door,” DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said in the release. 

This new program is supported by funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and the CDC. 

DHS notes self-tests can still be purchased through pharmacies, other retailers and online. And most private insurers and some Medicare plans cover the cost of eight rapid COVID-19 tests each month. Plus, over 500 community testing sites remain open around the state, the release shows. 

See the new site: 

See the release: 

— Wisconsin saw a 343 percent increase in the number of methamphetamine-related overdose deaths between 2015 and 2019, according to a recent Pew report. 

Report authors note part of that spike can be attributed to rising levels of methamphetamine being mixed with the powerful opioid fentanyl, which has played a significant role in rising overdose numbers in the state. 

And it’s not just Wisconsin that’s seeing higher methamphetamine death rates. The report found all 43 states with data for 2015 through 2019 had increases, with 34 of those — including Wisconsin — seeing it at least double. 

At the national level, the Pew report notes the share of all meth-related overdose deaths involving fentanyl shot up from 7 percent in 2015 to 31 percent in 2019. 

Meanwhile, the report also found 16 states in which at least one in 100 adults reported using meth in the past year in 2018 and 2019. While Wisconsin isn’t included in that list, the state still had a usage rate of 0.88 percent for that period. Rates in other states ranged from 0.25 percent in New York to 1.9 percent in Arizona. 

Report authors say efforts to address this growing problem through law enforcement may not be having much of an impact. They point to previous research that found “no relationship” between state drug imprisonment rates and drug use or overdose deaths. 

Instead, they argue states “should focus on research-informed approaches — and not just criminalization and incarceration — to address the methamphetamine crisis in the years ahead.”

See the full report: 

— The Medical College of Wisconsin Cancer Center has joined the Precision Oncology Alliance, a national network led by Texas-based Caris Life Sciences. 

With 70 participating cancer centers and academic institutions, the alliance aims to improve cancer treatment and research, as well as establish and optimize care standards for related testing. 

Dr. Razelle Kurzrock, a professor of medicine and associate director of clinical research for the MCW Cancer Center, says the alliance “exemplifies our mission of working through an equity lens to reduce the cancer burden for all patients in every community in Wisconsin and beyond through transformational cancer and precision oncology research.” 

According to a release, groups in the alliance get early access to Caris’ database and artificial intelligence platform used in cancer profiling and related research. The Texas company says it aims to “provide this network with the ability to prioritize therapeutic options and determine which clinical trial opportunities may benefit their patients.” 

Plus, participants also can access the Caris CODEai system, which contains clinical data from over 275,000 patients. 

See more in the release: 

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# Surging construction costs place Madison Public Market budget $5.2 million short

# As Madison screenprinting workers picket, owner calls demands ‘extortion’

# Milk plant closures leave schools with higher prices after summer scramble



– Class III milk price dips to $20.10 during August


– Fred C. Schwertfeger named president of Horicon Bank


– Construction, development groups appeal Dane County judge’s bird-ordinance ruling

– Saukville approves 99-acre development project, includes housing for adults with disabilities


– Ready for a new normal, Wisconsin students return to school

– ‘We’re going to keep this energy all year’: 2022-23 school year begins

– CVTC’s referendum-funded building projects nearly done


– The Bartolotta Restaurants names Michael Genre as head chef of Harbor House


– UW Health nurses plan to issue strike notice Friday


– Frontdesk names new CEO


– Pentair to close Brookfield manufacturing facility, Pewaukee distribution center

– Lifetime Piers plans move to proposed Oconomowoc building


– Stoughton art gallery opens exhibit to raise money for Ukraine


– Developer details plans for razing Paisan’s building, $35 million housing project

– Saukville approves $21.5 million to support development by Ansay, Pat Connaughton’s real estate firm

– What they said: Business execs sound off on FPC Live’s music venue proposal

– Snap-on to expand its Milwaukee facility

– Office building on Milwaukee’s far northwest side sold for $20.8 million


– Dealers upbeat as Harley-Davidson Hometown Rally returns for second year


– Door County metal sculptor’s kaleidoscopes add unique flair to gardens across U.S.


– WDE Tech Spotlight 2022 brings new products to light

– Thousands of rural Wisconsin homes could be left behind with loss of broadband grants


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

Alliant Energy: Named a Top Utility in Economic Development

COWS: Releases State of Working Wisconsin 2022