Frostman confirmed as Workforce Development secretary

    Welding photo
    Photo by Felipe Mosquera from Unsplash

    Amid sometimes contentious battles over aid to combat homelessness, PFAS “forever chemicals” and the so-called dark-store loophole that has cut taxes of big box realtors at the expense of homeowners and small-business owners, the state Senate finally confirmed one more member of Gov. Tony Evers’ cabinet on Tuesday.

    Lawmakers also took the next step in approving collective bargaining agreements for building-trades workers employed by the state, the University of Wisconsin, and the wider UW system.

    The actions were all taken with little fanfare in the session that began at 11 a.m. and wound up in time for dinner.

    Caleb Frostman was confirmed without dissent or comment as Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development. The department tracks state employment and unemployment data, administers programs that include unemployment insurance and workers compensation, oversees job training, and includes the state agency that enforces employment discrimination laws.

    Frostman was briefly a Democratic state senator from the 1st senate district after a 2018 special election, before losing the regular November 2018 election in a rematch with Republican André Jacque, whom he had narrowly defeated in the earlier contest.

    Senators also confirmed Joaquín Altoro as executive director of the Wisconsin Housing and Development Authority.

    Labor contracts

    Late in the Tuesday floor session, the Senate unanimously ratified contract agreements with the Building and Construction Trades Council of South-Central Wisconsin, representing about 440 skilled-trades construction workers employed by the state, by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, or by the state-wide UW System.

    The agreements include both the most recent round as well as the previous round negotiated with each of those three employers, raising wages by 2.46% for the 2018-19 fiscal year and 2.44% for the 2019-20 fiscal year. Ratification has been languishing for more than a year on the earlier package and for months on the later one, said Dave Branson, executive director for the building trades council.

    Workers who were actively employed when the contract agreements were reached, but who have since retired or gone to work outside any of the three employer entities covered in the agreements, will not get payments for the higher wages, according to Branson.

    The bill now goes to Evers for his consideration.

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.