TUE AM News: Evers announces $10M for meat processor grant program; Raven Software workers vote to unionize

— Gov. Tony Evers has announced meat processors in Wisconsin can apply for up to $150,000 in funding through a newly created grant program. 

In a release, the guv announced up to $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars will be allocated to the Meat and Poultry Supply Chain Resiliency Grant Program. 

Evers said meat processors in the state are a “key component” of a strong supply chain, and the new program will “help us continue to build critical infrastructure and increase processing capacity, ensuring the industry can thrive.”

Applications are now being accepted for the program, which requires recipients to provide matching funds equal to 100 percent of the grant amount, the release shows. It will be coordinated by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Applications are due by 5 p.m. Aug. 19. 

According to an info sheet from DATCP, funded projects are expected to begin as soon as October, and must be completed by the end of 2024. These can include efforts to expand or otherwise improve operations to boost capacity and production levels. 

Funding can be used for operating expenses that are directly related to the grant project, such as engineering, architectural design, food safety advisory services, construction services, equipment and installation. 

Officials note the grant process will be competitive, with preference given to projects that “demonstrate an industry-wide benefit and increase animal harvest benefitting multiple Wisconsin producers.” 

Evers had previously announced a $5 million Meat Talent Development Program aimed at bolstering the meat processing workforce through training programs and other efforts to attract new workers. 

See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2022/gov-evers-announces-an-additional-10-million-investment-in-meat-processing-infrastructure/ 

See more details: https://datcp.wi.gov/Documents2/2022MeatPoultryResiliencyGrantsFAQ.pdf 

— Workers at Activision Blizzard’s Raven Software, which produces the popular Call of Duty video game series, have voted to unionize. 

The workers at Raven Software’s Middleton office voted 19-3 to be represented by Communications Workers of America, according to an email from the National Labor Relations Board. The Associated Press reports this is the first labor union formed at a major U.S. video game company. 

A spokeswoman for the NLRB said the involved parties have until May 31st to file objections. If none are filed, the results will be certified and “the employer must begin bargaining in good faith” with the union, she said. 

Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Stephanie Bloomingdale is congratulating the workers “who have stood strong against fierce union-busting to organize their workplace and make history by becoming the first union in the video game industry in Wisconsin and just the second union in the video game industry in the United States.” 

In a statement, she noted workers in this industry put in “long, grueling hours for little pay.”

“We call on Activision Blizzard and Raven Software to come to the table in good faith and negotiate a first union contract with Game Workers Alliance (CWA) members,” she said. 

An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement that “we respect and believe in the right of all employees to decide whether or not to support or vote for a union.” 

But the spokesperson added: “We believe that an important decision that will impact the entire Raven Software studio of roughly 350 people should not be made by 19 Raven employees.”

The group’s union petition was one of 11 submitted in Wisconsin over the first four months of 2022, marking an increase in comparison to recent years. 

See more in Top Stories below. 

See a recent WisBusiness.com story on worker activism: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/state-seeing-increase-in-new-union-petitions/ 

— WEDC is touting survey results in which the state is ranked higher than Midwest neighbors for access to outdoor activities and educational opportunities. 

“Inside and outside our state, people are discovering all that Wisconsin has to offer and, as they do, our appeal continues to grow,” Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes said in a release. 

The online WEDC survey, conducted by Hoffman York, tapped: over 2,700 business leaders in the state on Wisconsin’s business climate; 1,500 residents of Midwest states on the “overall appeal” of their state compared to others in the region; and about 1,000 U.S. residents who rated their perception of Midwest states. 

Respondents were reached from Nov. 11-16 through an online panel called Cint and “fielded and analyzed” through the SurveyMonkey platform. 

According to the WEDC release, Wisconsin was ranked first by non-Wisconsin respondents for access to outdoor activities in comparison to Michigan, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio and Illinois. The state was rated 22 percent higher than the average on this question, WEDC says. 

And the state was also ranked first for post-secondary education, with a rating 18 percent higher than the average, the release shows. 

Meanwhile, Wisconsin was ranked second for access to health care and sense of community. The state was rated 19 percent higher than the average for health care access, and 9 percent higher on sense of community, according to WEDC. 

See the WEDC release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/wisconsin-economic-development-corp-new-research-unveils-wisconsins-regional-and-national-appeal-for-living-and-doing-business/ 

— Racine County officials say nearly $72,000 in grants has been approved for small businesses in the county and another $330,000 is still available. 

The funding comes from the county’s Community Development Block Grant Program, reserved for companies located outside the city of Racine that have five or fewer employees and are in the “low-to-moderate income” range, a release shows. 

Grants are administered by the Racine County Economic Development Corporation, with funding coming from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Recipients so far have been located in Caledonia, Union Grove, and Mount Pleasant, the RCEDC release shows. 

See more on the grant program here:

— Researchers at UW-Madison have found existing therapies remain effective against the widespread “stealth omicron” variant of COVID-19. 

A research team led by UW-Madison virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka and colleagues in Japan recently published a study in the journal Nature comparing the BA.2 “stealth omicron” subvariant with another subvariant called BA.1. 

A fact sheet from the World Health Association shows BA.2 has been found to be more transmissible than the BA.1 strain. It’s now the dominant strain in at least 68 countries, the UW study shows. 

While the researchers found therapeutic monoclonal antibodies and antiviral drugs work against BA.2, they also determined plasma from vaccinated patients and people who recovered from earlier infections was less effective against both of the subvariants “relative to earlier virus strains.” And plasma from people infected with BA.1 was less effective at neutralizing BA.2. 

But they found that plasma from patients who were vaccinated and later infected with BA.1 or earlier variants of COVID-19 “exhibited a smaller decrease in effectiveness” against BA.2. 

According to Kawaoka, that means that “if you’re vaccinated and then infected, you’re protected against many different variants,” when compared to prior infection or vaccination alone. 

See the full study: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-04856-1 

See the release: https://www.wisbusiness.com/2022/uw-madison-covid-19-subvariants-compared/ 

<i>For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com.</i>

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