THU AM News: Pabst Theater Group workers say union push will improve job security, safety; TDS Telecom announces new fiber network plans

— Employees of Pabst Theater Group in Milwaukee say their union organizing is helping to improve job security and safety in the hospitality and tourism industry. 

Connor Erickson, an event lead with Pabst Theater Group and union advocate, discussed organizing efforts yesterday during a virtual panel organized by UW-Madison’s Center on Wisconsin Strategy. The discussion came several days after Labor Day and the release of COWS’ annual State of Working Wisconsin report, which explored trends in wages, employment and labor union participation in the state. 

“For us, organizing was a huge step towards creating job sustainability in an unreliable and deeply insecure industry, with growing frustration over issues such as lost hours with no compensation, and a lack of voice in the decisions that ultimately decide our safety within our workplace,” Erickson said. 

He explained union organizing began over two years ago, prior to the pandemic-related shutdowns and layoffs, though the push toward certification came to a head in the spring of this year. According to Erickson, 84 percent of the workers in the bargaining unit signed authorization cards to request their employer voluntarily recognize the union. 

In response, Pabst Theater Group requested a National Labor Relations Board-certified election in which 92 percent of workers voted in favor of forming a union, according to Erickson. 

James Stapleton, an events staff member with the theater group, is hopeful forming a union will result in a “much more fair power balance” between management and workers. That includes box office and hospitality staff operating five concert venues and two wedding venues in the Milwaukee area. 

“As soon as I learned we were organizing a union at Pabst, I was like, ‘yes, get me on that,’ because every worker deserves the right to good wages … and to have a voice in their workplace,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s us, the workers, who are making it all happen.” 

Contract negotiations have been ongoing since the election in June, he noted. Erickson said Pabst Theater Group employees are getting support in this process from the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization. 

“It’s something we’re very proud to be a part of and we feel like we’re making a big change in the entertainment industry, not just in Milwaukee but in Wisconsin and the greater Midwest,” he said. 

In an emailed statement, Pabst Theater Group CEO Gary Witt said: “Since being notified of our employees’ desire to unionize in the spring, the Pabst Theater Group has worked cooperatively with both the NLRB and the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Employees group and is currently in negotiations on an initial collective bargaining agreement.”

See more on the COWS report here: 

— TDS Telecommunications has announced plans to build high-speed internet fiber networks connecting 18 more communities in the state. 

According to a release, the new fiber networks will provide high-speed internet access to 85,000  more homes and businesses in Wisconsin. Construction is planned to start later this year. 

Drew Petersen, senior vice president of corporate affairs for TDS, says Wisconsin is a top priority for the Madison-based business. 

“In the Badger State alone, TDS is investing nearly a billion of its own dollars to build state-of-the-art fiber optic networks here,” he said in the release. “We’re thrilled to grow our presence in our home state and look forward to serving these great communities for years to come.”

See more: 

— A Madison-based company called FluGen has finished enrolling its first cohort of participants in a clinical trial for a possible flu vaccine. 

According to a release, this is the first study of its kind to evaluate this vaccine in children under age 9. Kids under this age have the highest flu infection rates and a higher risk of serious disease and death than older patients, the company notes. Volunteers in the clinical trial are aged 6 months to 17 years. 

The company’s M2SR vaccine aims to provide improved protection compared to existing vaccines, which are typically about 50 to 60 percent effective in healthy adults, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

Dr. James Campbell, professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and principal investigator of the study, points to “a demonstrated need” for better flu vaccines. 

“The M2SR vaccine candidate has already shown a robust safety profile in adults, and we look forward to advancing scientific understanding of the potential benefits of M2SR in children,” Campbell said in the release. 

This vaccine has previously been studied in over 200 people aged 9 to 55 years, as well as in a separate ongoing study of adults aged 55 to 85 years. 

Over the course of the study with younger patients, 220 participants will be enrolled across three cohorts: 9-17 years old; 2-8 years old; and 6-23 months old. Over two flu seasons, participants will get either one or two doses of the M2SR vaccine at increasing doses or a placebo. 

FluGen says all participants will be provided with the seasonal flu vaccine at the end of the study period. Initial results are expected in the first half of next year. 

See more study details in the release: 

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has introduced legislation that would provide $10 million each year for opioid overdose reversal drugs and related programs. 

The Madison Dem yesterday announced the introduction of the Naloxone Education and Access Act, which would reauthorize a grant program originally created through the previous Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, a release shows. 

“Along with focusing on prevention and treatment for substance use disorder, combating drug trafficking, and providing support for individuals and families impacted by this epidemic, we also must provide the life-saving drugs that reverse overdoses and poisoning,” Baldwin said.

The bill would provide $10 million annually for efforts to encourage pharmacies to dispense overdose reversal drugs, support community-based distribution programs for such drugs, public health education campaigns and more. 

Funding would go to states and tribal organizations. In the release, Ho Chunk Nation Vice President Karena Thundercloud says the overdose reversal drug Naloxone can help save lives when treatment facilities are unavailable. 

“Opioid addiction doesn’t discriminate but access to resources will determine whether or not someone will live long enough to recover,” she said. “The Ho Chunk Nation appreciates Sen. Baldwin introducing this key legislation.” 

Find the bill text here: 

See the release: 

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— Elephas Biosciences Corporation, a Madison startup with a cancer therapy diagnostics platform, has raised $41.5 million in a Series B funding round.

According to a release, the round was led by ARCH Venture Partners of Chicago, with additional or continuing investments by New York’s Moore Strategic Ventures and WARF Ventures in Madison, among others.

“Our mission at Elephas is to improve care for cancer patients,” Elephas CEO Maneesh Arora said in a statement. “We are grateful for the support of these world-class venture firms who believe in what we are doing and are committed to helping us get there.”

The biotech company aims to launch two human clinical trials on the platform in the next quarter and plans to share initial clinical data in 2023.

See details on the company here: 

See more from Madison Startups: 


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– Corn silage harvest begins in Wisconsin

– Bird flu is back in Wisconsin. Some poultry producers worry the highly contagious disease is here to stay.


– Third Ward apartment tower moves forward after $6M land sale, $109M construction loan finalized

– UW-EC starts year with dorm demolition


– La Crosse County schools collaborate to reduce chronic absenteeism


– Crop insurance deadline nears for Wisconsin fall planted crops


– Josh Kaul hopes UW Health recognizes nurses union ahead of strike


– Generac will vigorously defend itself against solar-panel lawsuit that alleges malfunctions

– Eagle Park enhances Hamilton location, adds 12-packs: Beer Biz MKE


– 88Nine Radio Milwaukee names new executive director


– Streetwise: Scooter’s Coffee, Starbucks aim to open new Green Bay locations


– Hines purchases Third Ward site for 31-story apartment tower


– Oak Street revisits buying Kohl’s real estate: Reuters


– Knoche’s butcher shop for sale, ‘priced to give new owners the opportunity to succeed’


– Milwaukee-based Renaissant names new chief revenue officer


– First Great Lakes-built cargo ship in nearly 40 years arrives in the Twin Ports


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