Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. May 25, 2021.
Editorial: Be careful with ticket prices
High ticket prices have been the subject of complaints for years. It doesn’t seem to matter what the ticket is for. Whether it’s a concert, a sports event or almost anything else, people have watched prices rise for a long time.
Some of that is the traditional griping that almost every consumer engages in. We know inflation means prices increase over time. We don’t generally like it, but people usually understand incremental increases. What’s harder to adapt to is sudden sticker shock, and from what we’re hearing that’s a concern right now.
It sure seems like ticket prices for events are way up. Part of that isn’t surprising. After a disastrous 2020 for entertainment venues, there is a genuine need to recover some revenue. Even as things open back up many venues will be hurting until they can begin to rebuild their account balances.
But there’s also a risk of overreach, and that’s our concern. Remember, people are still recovering financially, too. If venues price people out, they won’t be able to take advantage of the clear pent-up demand for events to the same degree as they might otherwise see.
Mass entertainment has traditionally relied on access to the middle class. That’s how people remember it. There’s nostalgia for times when a family could reasonably go to a baseball game without it costing an arm and a leg, or to be able to see a race in person without taking out a mortgage. We’re not so sure those days exist anymore, and there’s risk to sports’ long-term health because of it.
The cheapest regular price for tickets to a Brewers game will cost a family of four at least $22 a pop. That’s before you figure in the prices for parking, concessions, any souvenirs the kids might want, and the cost of getting to and from Milwaukee. It’s not hard to see the entire trip wind up costing something in the neighborhood of $300.
In July, NASCAR is bringing a cup series race to Wisconsin. The sport has long highlighted its humble roots and connections to fans. Tickets for Sunday alone run $85. Parking on-site is extra, though there is off-site parking and a free shuttle. The fact many fans want to make NASCAR a multi-day event adds to the costs. Think camping would be a cheaper option? A wristband runs $70, otherwise you’re staying in a hotel and that’s not going to be cheap.
It’s not just sporting events. We’ve heard of people having sticker shock for festivals this summer, too. We’re genuinely curious to see what attendance at those events is this year. There’s no question demand is there, but is fans’ sense of safety?
Our basic concern comes down to the inevitable alienation sports can create if they don’t take care to ensure costs are in line with what the majority of people can reasonably afford. There’s no question that the best way to experience a concert, a game or a race is to be there in person. The live experience can’t be beat.
But if that’s not attainable — and the spiraling costs threaten to make that the reality for a lot of families — television is a secondary option. It’s not as good. You don’t have the same electricity that comes with a crowd. But at least it’s available, right?
Increasingly, no. We’ve heard plenty of complaints this year from baseball fans blocked from broadcasts by seemingly arbitrary blackouts. There are areas of the country hundreds of miles from the nearest major-league team that are still considered home territory for multiple teams, leaving fans with few options. Unless, that is, they spring for an expensive streaming package that’s just as much a crass money grab as it sounds like.
We don’t see the sense in pushing fans away. It doesn’t make sense to us. That’s especially true when leagues face situations like what Major League Baseball seems to be heading toward. There are a lot of observers who think some sort of work stoppage is likely once the current contract with the players runs out. MLB needed years to recover from the last time that happened. It needs every bit of goodwill it can get now to emerge in better shape this time.
Venues, leagues and events shouldn’t underestimate the goodwill that can be maintained simply by keeping events at reasonable prices. Raising prices may bring immediate gains, but we urge events to keep prices reasonable. Consider it an investment in the long term.
Kenosha News. May 24, 2021.
Editorial: Hiring complaint poses hard issues
A regional case over alleged hiring discrimination against a man convicted of domestic violence has tumbled around the courts for six years and is now headed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
It’s being closely watched across the state by employers and job applicants with criminal records because the high court‘s decision could ripple across the state for years to come.
The basic facts of the case are this: In 2012, Derrick Palmer was convicted of strangulation/suffocation, fourth degree sexual assault, battery and criminal damage to property related to a domestic incident with a live-in girlfriend. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and 30 months of community supervision.
After he got out of prison, Palmer applied for a job in 2015 as an Applications Specialist with Sturtevant-based Cree Lighting, one of Racine County’s largest employers. He was given a job offer by Cree, but that offer was then rescinded when the company learned of his conviction. Palmer also had 2001 domestic battery conviction, but Cree was unaware of that.
Palmer filed a discrimination complaint alleging that Cree unlawfully discriminated against him based on his conviction record. In court, Cree, which has more than 1,100 workers nearly half of whom are women, argued that hiring Palmer would be putting the safety of its female employees at risk and that he “would have … regularly interact(ed) with female coworkers whom he could later harm outside of work.”
Palmer’s complaint bounced from an administrative law judge who ruled against him to the Wisconsin Labor and Industrial Review Commission which ruled in his favor and held Cree failed to meet its burden under state law to show that his convictions substantially relate to the circumstances of the Applications Specialist job. The LIRC held that Palmer’s convictions related specifically to violence against women in domestic situations with him, not with women in general and should not have been taken into account when the hiring decision was made simply because there will be women in the same building as him.
Up the legal ladder it went. The LIRC decision was overturned by the Racine County Circuit Court and then to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals which reinstated the LIRC finding of discrimination.
Now it goes to the state Supreme Court.
There are competing interests and arguments here.
On the one hand, Wisconsin’s laws side with those who have been convicted of crimes to protection against hiring discrimination once they have paid their debt to society and completed their incarceration and probation — unless the criminal history substantially relates to the job. A bank does not have to hire someone who was convicted of embezzlement for a teller’s job; a school does not have to hire someone with a child molestation conviction for a job as a janitor.
On the other hand, employers don’t have crystal balls to determine how a prospective hire with a criminal background is going to behave in the future. How can they know if a person convicted of domestic abuse won’t graduate to assaulting women in a workplace setting? And why would they want to take on that risk?
If the state Supreme Court rules in favor of Cree Lighting, would that mean that anyone convicted of domestic battery can never be successful in finding a job at a workplace that has any women employees? Would that then shunt those unsuccessful applicants into criminal activity in order to make ends meet?
Whatever the high court rules, we would hope the state Legislature re-examines this issue at some point. Perhaps, as Court of Appeals Judge Mark Gundrum suggested, legislators could change the law to allow the rejection of job applicants with “certain particularly disturbing offenses” like murder, rape and domestic abuse. Or, perhaps, the Legislature could provide some legal liability protection for employers who take on the risk of hiring people with criminal records in the hopes of reintegrating them into society.
It’s a complex and difficult question with no bright line answers — but we should continue to look for them.
Wisconsin State Journal. May 26, 2021.
Editorial: Nix $300? Sure. Raise minimum wage? Yes. But so much more is needed to fill jobs
The biggest cause of Wisconsin’s workforce shortage isn’t the extra $300 a week the federal government is paying unemployed people, though that benefit should end.
Nor is the main culprit our state’s stagnant minimum wage, which needs to increase.
The core challenge — before and after the pandemic — remains the same: Wisconsin is graying fast and doesn’t have enough young people to replace older workers as they retire, much less to fill the new positions that growing businesses create.
Wisconsin’s prime working-age population fell in every county except Dane and Eau Claire from 2007 to 2017, according to an analysis of census data by the Economic Innovation Group. The pandemic was supposed to trigger a boom in babies as more couples stayed home to avoid the virus. Instead, 2020 was a bust. The U.S. birth rate fell to its lowest point in more than a century, the Associated Press reported this month.
Births in Wisconsin have declined for more than a decade. Just over 60,000 babies were born here in 2020, 9% less than in 2016. If not for immigration and Wisconsin residents living longer, our population would be shrinking.
About the only good news is that teen births in Wisconsin have fallen by more than half in a decade. Couples are waiting longer to have fewer babies so they’re more financially secure. In most cases, that’s a healthy decision.
Yet long-term demographic trends pose significant risk for our economy and prosperity.
What to do?
In last week’s State Journal report “Too few workers in many sectors,” Republicans demanded that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers end $300 in extra unemployment benefits that the federal government is offering during the pandemic. Add that enhancement to normal benefits, and a recipient can receive the equivalent of a $16.75-and-hour job for not working, conservatives complained.
They have a point, though the $300 boost is scheduled to end this fall. The governor should phase it out sooner if the economy continues to improve.
Democrats blamed Wisconsin’s $7.25-per-hour minimum wage for failing to support entry-level workers. Wisconsin hasn’t raised its minimum wage in more than a decade. Aiming for $10 an hour, similar to the minimum wage in neighboring Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois, is justified.
But bigger solutions are needed. Wisconsin must do far more to attract and keep young people here. Expanding fast and reliable internet in rural areas is a must. Loan forgiveness and other incentives for college graduates who stay here make sense.
Wisconsin’s largest industries — agriculture, manufacturing and tourism — need more legal immigration and flexible worker visas from the federal government. So does the start-up economy. Foreign UW graduates with high-demand degrees should be able to stay. Undocumented immigrants brought here as children deserve a stable legal status and path to citizenship for their contributions.
The technology sector, especially in the Madison region, is pulling in young people from across the country and world. We need to keep these innovators here when they start families. Safe communities, strong schools, fun downtowns and affordable housing will help.
Our workforce shortage won’t fade as COVID-19 is defeated. Neither should bold ideas to make Wisconsin more attractive for our children and their peers.