Wisconsin Weekly: Thousands await jobless aid as Wisconsin leaders blame each other for failure

Unemployment woes; tracking ballots; racial disparities in incarceration; meatpacking workers treated ‘like dogs’; MKE, other cities, not key to Trump defeat 

Of note: This week we draw your attention to our collaboration with TMJ4 News in Milwaukee that exposed how Wisconsin’s employment system has buckled under the weight of the pandemic because of long-standing, systemic problems and more recent changes limiting the amount of help workers can receive. Nearly 100,000 out-of-work Wisconsinites have been waiting months for assistance — with often tragic consequences, according to the story by TMJ4 News reporter Marty Hobe and Bram Sable-Smith, a reporter for WPR and Wisconsin Watch.

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Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette and co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance, has faulted Gov. Tony Evers’ administration for the slow pace at which it has processed a surge of unemployment insurance claims during the pandemic. He is seen here during a public hearing at the State Capitol on Dec. 3, 2018 in Madison, Wis.

Thousands await jobless aid as Wisconsin leaders blame each other for failure

Wisconsin Watch/TMJ4 News — November 17, 2020

Wisconsin’s unemployment safety net has buckled under a pandemic stress test. More than 1 million filed initial claims since March 15. As of Saturday, nearly 93,000 applications for regular and federal pandemic aid had yet to be processed or adjudicated. Wisconsin’s unemployment system relies on antiquated technology, and moves to add staff to meet the surging demand have fallen short.

Wisconsin county jails have far higher rates of Black inmates than Black residents, and voices for reform are getting louder

USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin — November 15, 2020

Black people continue to be jailed in disproportionately high numbers across Wisconsin, even as protests against inequality and police brutality drive a national conversation about race. A USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin analysis of booking records from sheriff’s offices across the state found that Black defendants were more likely — and in some places, much more likely — to be jailed than people of other races. Those disparities — Black people jailed at higher rates than other races, given their share of the population — are similar statewide, despite years of efforts to address bias in the criminal justice system and societal factors that are often cited in explaining the racial gaps among those who are arrested and incarcerated.

‘They think workers are like dogs.’ How pork plant execs sacrificed safety for profits.

USA TODAY/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting — November 12, 2020

Bernardo Serpa cut pork legs eight hours a day, six days a week as a production line worker at the second-largest pork processing plant in the country. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Serpa and hundreds of his colleagues at the Triumph Foods plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, got sick. The Cuban immigrant died after four months in the hospital, a victim of one of the nation’s largest meatpacking plant outbreaks. USA TODAY and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found Triumph failed to respond effectively during a crucial period from mid-March to mid-April to contain the spread. And local health officials missed several opportunities to investigate.

Claire DeRosa / Wisconsin Watch

Nearly 2 million Wisconsin residents voted absentee in this election, depositing their ballots in the mail, in a drop box or using early in-person voting sites.

‘Checks and balances’: Inside the life cycle of a Wisconsin absentee ballot

Wisconsin Watch — November 18, 2020

A week after the Nov. 3 election, Wendy Helgeson said she still was being jolted awake by dreams of sorting through ballots. The head of the Wisconsin Municipal Clerks Association and a clerk in the town of Greenville is one of 1,850 municipal clerks who have grappled with the stressful realities of this year’s election, from a surge in absentee votes to abundant falsehoods about election results. While many aspects of this election cycle are different from previous years, Helgeson said she feels confident in the veracity of the results. “With the checks and balances in place, it would be really hard to try to commit fraud and then get away with it, ultimately,” Helgeson said.

The cities central to fraud conspiracy theories didn’t cost Trump the election

New York Times — November 16, 2020

President Trump’s attention since the election has focused on Philadelphia, Detroit and Milwaukee as the chief sites of Republican claims of fraud in this election. All three are heavily Democratic. They have large African-American populations. And in their respective states, they have long been targets of racialized charges of corruption. But in one revealing way, the fixation this year is misplaced. All three cities voted pretty much the same way they did in 2016. Turnout barely budged, relative to other areas in these states. Trump even picked up marginally more votes this year in all three cities than he did four years ago. The Times’ reporting mirrors Wisconsin Watch’s earlier reporting of lower vote totals in majority Black-majority Milwaukee districts

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