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Services offered to laid-off truckers in Janesville

JANESVILLE

Drivers and other workers for LME Inc. in Janesville said they are frustrated after they were laid off with no warning Thursday afternoon.

“It’s shellshock. You’re blindsided,” said Ed Burns, who has driven for LME for 13 years.

“We are in the dark. Nobody’s talking. That’s the worst thing you can do, keep us in the dark,” Burns said.

Some employees gathered near the LME freight terminal near the intersection of highways 51 and 11 on Friday to talk to reporters.

They said they were supposed to be paid Friday, but direct-deposit paychecks didn’t show up. Now they don’t know if they’ll ever be paid.

They get paid weekly, but paychecks were delayed by two weeks when they were hired, so they’re out three weeks of pay, they said.

The Roseville, Minnesota-based company shut down Thursday, laying off hundreds of workers at terminals across the Midwest.

“Until yesterday at 3 o’clock, everything was going along smooth. And all of a sudden, bam!” Burns said.

Logan Stevens, a dispatcher at the Janesville terminal, said he got a call from a manager at 2:30 p.m. Thursday telling him to cease all operations.

Employees were told to to stop work and leave, and that’s what they did, leaving trucks, trailers, forklifts and freight where it was, employees said.

Stevens said he asked the manager what was going on. He got no answers.

Now Stevens, who has worked for the company for six years, since he was 18, is looking for a job, “same as everybody else.”

Employees estimated 25 to 30 people worked for LME in Janesville.

“It’s been a good job,” Burns said. But now, “Everybody’s hoping to find another job with a competitive wage.”

That might mean relocating, which people don’t want to do because they would be leaving family and friends, Burns said.

“We’re a family here. I’m going to miss everybody here,” said driver Mary Washington. “We’re a good group of drivers. We work hard every day.”

Washington said she has received two offers already, and she expects other drivers will have little trouble finding new jobs.

“We are the cream of the crop. We give 110 percent,” she said.

Gail Graham of the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board said even if someone gets a new job right away, it will take days to complete the hiring process, so workers might need the unemployment benefits they qualify for.

Graham said some companies alert the state ahead of time, allowing her agency’s rapid-response services to be in place when layoffs happen. That happened with recent Shopko closings, she said, but not with LME.

Graham said she suspects laid-off truck drivers already are getting offers because many companies are desperate for drivers, but not all LME employees are drivers, she noted.

The LME website features a note to its customers that says in part: “We apologize for the inconvenience of the situation, but effective July 12, 2019, LME Inc. will no longer be making pickups or deliveries of freight due to unforeseen circumstances and have ceased operations.”

The note continues: “Our plan is to utilize an alternate carrier to assist in getting all freight delivered, and some staff are remaining to help with that. ...”

The company describes itself as family-owned with a workforce of more than 600 who operated over 1,200 tractors and trailers.

LME said its major accounts included 3M, John Deere, Osram Sylvania, Brake Parts and Toro.

The workers said the many trailers parked at the terminal are full of machine parts, paint and other goods.

“Things used to make stuff that you buy in the store,” Washington said.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that LME owners are affiliated with Lakeville Motors Express, which abruptly closed 2½ years ago, and that LME began paying a multimillion-dollar settlement to those workers last month.

Burns said he had no direct information about that situation, and he suspects LME’s shutdown is related to that.

Freightwaves News reported that Lakeville Motors Express was a union shop that shut down in 2016, and the National Labor Relations Board charged that LME was reopened by the same people as a nonunion business.

The board ruled earlier this year that LME had to pay $1.25 million in back wages, and if it didn’t meet a deadline, it would have to pay double that amount, Freightwaves reported.


Angela Major 

Bricks fall as an excavator demolishes JC McKenna Middle School on Friday, July 12, 2019, in Evansville.


Angela Major 

A worker uses an excavator to move bricks while demolishing the gymnasium at JC McKenna Middle School on Friday, July 12, 2019, in Evansville. {span}Demolition of the nearly 100-year old JC McKenna Middle School began July 1. Costs for demolition of JC McKenna and construction of a new middle school was the lionshare of a $34 million referendum school district residents approved in November. The new school is expected to open in time for the 2020-21 school year.


Local
New YMCA CEO to be paid half as much as predecessor

JANESVILLE

The new CEO for the YMCA of Northern Rock County has agreed to base pay that’s less than half the amount former CEO Tom Den Boer was paid in recent years.

Angie Bolson was hired by the Y’s board last week to lead the Y in downtown Janesville and the Parker YMCA in Milton. She told The Gazette this week she’ll be paid a “starting salary” of $125,000.

Steve Yeko Jr., the Y board president, confirmed Bolson’s salary amount, telling The Gazette the $125,000 doesn’t include health benefits or “performance-based” bonuses Bolson might earn.

Under law, nonprofit organizations are required to disclose financial records, including leadership pay.

The most recently published tax documents for the YMCA of Northern Rock County show Den Boer in 2017 had total annual pay of $316,640. That figure included base pay of $251,000. Den Boer in 2017 also was paid $65,000 for other duties at the Y, including leading the Y foundation’s private fundraising, according to tax records.

Den Boer parted ways with the Y earlier this year after months-long uproar. Some members said Den Boer and a former Y board member were sidestepping the Y’s rules of governance by improperly removing board members and suspending some members who asked probing questions about the Y’s finances.

The Y board and the YMCA of the USA spent weeks investigating complaints and concerns over Den Boer’s conduct and what some said was a lack of transparency.

Bolson was one of two executives from the Pabst Farm YMCA in Oconomowoc who along with officials from the YMCA of the USA served as part-time, interim leaders at the Janesville Y in the wake of Den Boer’s departure.

In an interview with The Gazette last week, Bolson declined to disclose her pay. But this week, she reached out to The Gazette, saying she decided that sharing details of her pay would be in the best interests of “transparency.”

“I think it’s important for the community to know the process that the Y went through,” Bolson said. “There’s nothing to hide. I just spent four months doing a complete assessment at the Y, and I’m here to stay.”

Bolson said she wants to help the Y move past the “hang-ups” of the past year.

“This organization is moving forward at a fast pace. I never would have applied for this position if I didn’t think this organization didn’t have extreme, unrealized potential and that it didn’t have the right people surrounding it,” Bolson said.

Yeko said it became clear Bolson would be a natural fit at the Y because she got to know staff and the board through a months long process that included examining best practices, management logistics and governance at the Y. The Y board selected Bolson from a national search that drew 27 candidates, some of whom are employees at the YMCA of Northern Rock County.

Bolson and Yeko said Bolson’s base salary was based on a recommendation by YMCA of the USA officials. The Y’s local board and the national Y determined Bolson’s salary by comparing how much other Y CEOs with similar experience are paid at Ys that are similar in size to the YMCA of Northern Rock County, which has a $2 million annual budget.

Yeko said the national Y advertised the CEO position in Janesville as offering base pay between $110,000 and $135,000, which was the average pay range for similarly sized YMCAs.

According to 2018 tax records, the similarly sized Beloit YMCA paid CEO Doug Britt $121,000.

Yeko said he believes Bolson will have all the same duties and responsibilities as Den Boer. When asked why Den Boer was paid more, Yeko said he couldn’t speak to Den Boer’s initial pay agreement at the Y, but he said Den Boer had been compensated, at least in part, for his long tenure in Janesville.

“I didn’t hire Tom, but I’d say his tenure as CEO probably was one of the reasons for his pay amount. Tom was here for a decade, quite a while. During that time, he oversaw building another Y location in Milton,” Yeko said.

Bolson said she considers her base pay fair because it’s based on a national average for Y leadership and because the salary is commensurate with the local Y’s budget size.

“It’s obviously significantly lower than what Tom (Den Boer) was being paid, but it’s equitable. That was kind of the goal of what the Y’s board wanted to get back to,” Bolson said. “It feels comfortable within the operating budget, and it’s something the organization is able to sustain, too.”

Bolson is an Oconomowoc native and a UW-Whitewater graduate. She had worked for the Pabst Farm YMCA for 21 years, first for more than a decade as the director of daycare services and later as a program director, a branch manager and most recently as vice president of strategic initiatives.


In Wisconsin, Trump claims dairy farmers are coping with trade policies despite ongoing closures

President Donald Trump raised $3 million in Wisconsin cash on Friday touring Milwaukee to promote a new trade deal he says will help rebuild the country’s wounded manufacturing and agriculture industries.

But in doing so, the president downplayed the suffocation felt by Wisconsin dairy farmers because of Trump’s own tariffs.

“We’re taking in billions and billions of dollars and I’m giving our farmers a chunk because they were targeted,” Trump told a crowd at Derco Aerospace, mischaracterizing how tariffs work. “These are great American patriots ... the farmers (said) ‘No it’s not like things are perfect, but we’re with our president.’”

Trump said the new trade agreement would help Wisconsin dairy farmers by providing access to Canada’s market, painting an optimistic picture of the Wisconsin industry’s future—which is losing almost two dairy farms a day.

Nearly 700 Wisconsin farms were shut down last year by owners used to enduring a brutal workload and hard times, calling it quits in a downturn now headed into its fifth year. In 2018, for the third straight year, Wisconsin led the nation in farm bankruptcies.

“Some of the farmers are doing well,” Trump said Friday, speaking broadly. “We’re over the hump. We’re doing really well.”

A spokeswoman for the Green Bay-based American Dairy Coalition did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Trump arrived in Milwaukee still simmering about former House Speaker Paul Ryan’s recently reported opinion that the president didn’t know “anything about government” and less than two hours after losing his labor secretary amid furor over a child sex trafficking case.

The president set aside the controversy—for now—in Milwaukee as he pushed Congress to approve a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada and boosted his campaign’s coffers in a private fundraiser.

“We’re here today to celebrate the triumphant return of American manufacturing,” Trump said.

“We were laughed at by the rest of the world. We were patsies,” he said about previous trade deals. “It’s not China’s fault that we were stupid. It’s not China’s fault that we allowed it to happen.”

The president on Friday didn’t mention Milwaukee’s flagship manufacturer Harley-Davidson—a company he has repeatedly criticized for moving manufacturing overseas—or the Foxconn project Trump negotiated himself but has been scaled back, and its promise of 13,000 jobs all but dismissed.

But Trump did stress the importance of the state to his 2020 re-election, illustrated best by his exaggeration of the narrow victory delivered by Wisconsin in 2016.

“I’m thrilled to be back in your great state—a state that I won, and we won it not so late in the evening. A little bit early in the evening, actually,” Trump said.

In reality, the Associated Press did not call Trump the winner of Wisconsin until 1:30 the morning following the election.

Before his public comments, Trump stopped by a $2,800-minimum Fox Point fundraiser—one of two the president held Friday in the swing states of Wisconsin and Ohio that were expected to bring in $7 million by the day’s end.

Top state Republicans greeted the president at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, and the president took a few minutes to greet National Guard members and fans—even signing one woman’s stiletto shoe.

Friday was Trump’s second stop in Wisconsin this year and the sixth since he was elected—a victory delivered by the Badger State.

While the state’s dairy industry backs Trump’s plan to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement because it opens access to Canada’s market, dairy farmers are skeptical the president will back off from tariffs if House Democrats agree to pass its replacement.

“President Trump has displayed a willingness to play hardball in order to secure concessions,” Laurie Fischer of the Wisconsin-based American Dairy Coalition said in a statement. “Nonetheless, he has reached a point of rapidly diminishing returns and every day unnecessary tariffs remain in place, more and more of the very people he claims to be fighting for—American dairymen and farmers—are being pushed into bankruptcy.”

Fischer said Trump needs to acknowledge when the fight isn’t worth the pain.

“A good general knows when the day is won and when to remove his troops from harm’s way. If Trump can’t learn the same lesson, he may find few farmers willing—or able—to stand behind him,” she said.

While Republicans are touting the effect of the proposed trade deal on dairy farmers, Trump chose to make his case at a manufacturer—another Wisconsin industry hurt by the trade agreement Trump wants to replace.

David Newby, president of the Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition, said the president’s proposal “fails to make the changes needed to stop outsourcing jobs.”

Trump also visited Derco Aerospace on Friday, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, that provides parts for fixed-wing aircraft and repairs them. It’s also accused of defrauding the government in a federal lawsuit by overbilling the U.S. Navy.

Trump’s visit came two days after Lockheed Martin agreed to keep its Sikorsky Helicopter Plant in Pennsylvania open following a request from the president.

Derco employs about 250 people in Milwaukee at a plant that operates an FAA repair facility and an inventory of more than 75,000 different aircraft parts.