“Another Side” – Man comes forward to expose miserable conditions at a workplace Walker is about to celebrate

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Robert Heussner of Fort Atkinson is by now probably fired by Opportunities Inc. for telling the world about his workplace conditions. [technically “DPS (Diversified Personal Services), a branch of Opportunities” will have fired him]

Heussner’s whistle-blowing is of particular embarrassment to his employer because Governor Scott Walker is about to visit in a 45th Anniversary Gala on Thursday, July 28. Not only will Scott Walker grace Opportunities Inc. with his presence, he will proclaim July 28 as Opportunities Inc. Day in the State of Wisconsin.

Heussner describes a workplace where minimum wage workers have no hope of advancement out of their “temporary” status, where one single fan fails to cool hot workers on an assembly line below, where there’s no holiday pay even for Christmas, and a public free clinic has to fill in for health benefits because the employer won’t give them. During Thursday’s “Gala” event “temporary” employees who have worked there for years will stay home with a little less money. It’s an unpaid day off.

Walker promised Wisconsinites he’d deliver 250,000 jobs during his term. Ladies and gentlemen, these are the kinds of jobs Walker celebrates. Are these the sort of jobs Wisconsin needs? Are these the jobs his voters had in mind?

Opportunities Inc places developmentally disabled and disadvantaged people in jobs and also manages other social services all over Wisconsin. Opp. Inc opened a new 80,000 sq. foot facility Mid-July and also added 50,000 sq. feet to its existing facility.

“Another Side” appeared in “The Daily Union” Wed. July 20. It was pointed out to me by Kevin Gundlach.


Editor, Daily Union: I’m writing in response to the recent articles about the opening of thenew Opportunities Inc. building. First of all, I would like to saythat I am a 66-year-old male, a Vietnam veteran, and healthy, both mentally and physically. I have been working full time at Opportunities for almost three years. However, I am not employed by Opportunities directly.I am a temporary worker hired through DPS (Diversified Personal Services), a branch of Opportunities.

There is another side of Opportunities that is never spoken of or written about in their articles. That is what I would like totell you about. I work the second shift, which varies in the numbers of workers it has, but now it is around 100,plus or minus some. Some ofthese workers have been there five years or more. They are still temporary workers and always will be unless the company’s policies change.They started earning $7.50 per hour. That is what theystill earn, and that is what theywill continue to earn as long as they are there, once again, unless the company’s policies change. There is never an increase in wages unless you are moved to a line lead position or in quality control, as I am. Then you get a dollar an hour more, but with greater responsibilities.

In all honesty I must say thatI did receive a 50-cent raise about a year ago and I am thankful for that — but that is an exception and I was hoping at the time, it was going to be a trend toward the other workers, but it will be unless the company’s policies change. They started earning$7.50 per hour. That is what theystill earn, and that is what they will continue to earn as long as they are there, once again, unless the company’s policies change. There is never an increase in wages unless you are moved to a line lead position or in quality control, as I am.

idays off with no pay, at a time when we would all like a little extra money. I think about how hard their Christmases are.    I am fortunate; I have other income. We have people coming from Janesville and Beloit each day for these minimum-wage jobs. I don’tknow how they do it. On several occasions, when work was slower, I’ve seen people drive that far to come to work, only to be sent home. It seemed very heartless to  see that happen considering the cost of gas. Why weren’t they called? I am very fortunate. I am a veteran and get healthcare through the V.A., but I wondered what these people do for healthcare, so I asked.

They tell me that when they can, they go to the “free clinic.” I don’t think that the public realizes how much these low-paying jobs are costing in social programs, and the stress it puts onbudgets and taxes.It’s pretty pathetic. Our people are the ones who bring in the money and yet we are totally unrecognized by management.  During the open house celebration, we will be out of work for the day— without pay. You may have read that there is something being done for the employees during the celebration, but guess what — we aren’t employees, just temps … not a thank-you, nothing … just a loss of pay. I’m trying to figure out how one group (production) can be so oppressed and yet supposedly so many wonderful things are being done for the other (challenged) group. I think this facade needs to be lifted.

In my opinion, this is an American version of a Chinese sweatshop. Thankfully, we still have some protective laws. And Mr. Wilmet, the cooling system in the new building doesn’t really work. On some of the previous days, it has been around 90 degrees in the building. If you are in the building, notice that only one of the ceiling fans is above the lines where the vast majority of the people work. In hot weather, you need wind blowing directly on you in order to survive the heat and to do your work. In most of the area, there is no breeze. I’ve learned something; some of my Hispanic friends get hot just like us caucasians. Bipartisan, the article says. I wonder why that is even mentioned? Is it because they’re trying to convince us they’re something that they’re not? I think they are very right-winged and embrace the type of work environment that Gov. Walker is bringing to Wisconsin.

I’ve been so torn up about writing this. I have giving it a lot of thought. I know that Opportunities Inc. will not be happy about it and I will lose my job. I need it and love my fellow workers. In good conscience, though, I couldn’t “not” do this. I just want all the smiling people behind the ribbon in the picture in the paper to know that there are many people looking back at you … with no smiles.

—Sincerely, Robert Heussner, Fort Atkinson.

Ben Masel, constitutional activisit, has passed on. Remember Ben Masel.

Ben came to Madison by way of the largest mass arrest in U.S. history in Washington D.C. on May Day 1970. He was locked up with about 100 UW Madison students.  They were there to protest the Vietnam War.

“I’d heard good things about the town and so I decided to throw a college application in and ..there weren’t that many schools that took me.”

[from an interview with Sly of WTDY. online here.]

Ben was infamous enough for me to know a good deal about him before meeting him early last fall.

We talked for some time at the Netroots Wisconsin gathering put Continue reading

The Ed Schultz Town Hall, Barrymore Theater, Madison, Ground Zero in the Wisconsin Movement.

I joined 1,300 people in the Barrymore Theater last night. This crowd needed absolutely no assistance in warming up. While we waited for start, one audience member in the front in green face paint and a fright wig, stood up to lead the chant “This is what Democracy looks like”, while a cowbell waving member clanged along.

The crowd was noticeably over 30-years-old and mostly white–a demographic that fits with Madison, Wisconsin. However I feel qualified to state that the mix of cultures and styles brought to the Barrymore by the Ed Schultz crowd was uniquely non-elitist and non-cocktail swilling – as the downtown Madison crowd is characterized by the local GOP.

The format of the evening was billed as “town hall” with microphones at either side of he theater, and so I expected to hear hours of testimony. Instead, we heard a series of brief pointed speeches followed by a conversational exploration of the events that have transpired in Wisconsin since February 11 of 2011 when Scott Walker unveiled Wisconsin Act 10.

The crowd was stacked with those absolutely committed to jumping through all of the hoops required to get there – and thus  -the energy level they brought to the evening was red hot.

To guarantee entry into this event, hundreds waited in line first at noon, and then again later at 4:30PM, and following, they waited inside the theater. We listened first to John Nichols, Stu Levitan, Ruth Conniff, and a representative from PR Watch, and finally, we saw the man of the hour, Ed Schultz.

I didn’t count how many times Ed was thanked for Continue reading