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Latino workers ‘exploited;’ U.S. rejects pesticide ban; sexual abuse in WI prisons; Evers proposes drug-price curbs

Of note: This week we draw your attention to our joint investigation with the Chicago Sun-Times exploring the employment agencies in Chinatown that send Latino immigrants to work in Asian restaurants in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Three of these agencies and two restaurants were accused by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan of exploiting workers with illegally low wages and substandard living conditions. All of the defendants have now reached agreements to either cease operations or change the way they treat these Latino workers. The final consent decree — which shut down the Xing Ying Employment Agency — was inked just two days after our story ran. A hat tip to The Guardian’s Kari Lydersen, who in 2015 first exposed the plight of Latino workers living under the same bridge in Chinatown, Homeless but employed: the Chicago restaurant workers living under a bridge.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by Dee and Andy Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Dee is the managing editor and Andy is the executive director.

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Asian restaurants and Chicago employment agencies accused of exploiting Latino workers in Midwest

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism/Chicago Sun-Times — October 7, 2018

In the Center’s latest investigation, WCIJ’s Belle Lin and the Chicago Sun-Times’ Alexandra Arriaga (also a former WCIJ intern) shed light on a web of Chicago employment agencies accused of exploiting Latino restaurant workers in Wisconsin and across the Midwest. The two reporters dug through court records and conducted interviews in two states and three languages to expose agencies which, according to a lawsuit, “systematically selected and dispatched vulnerable Latino workers to abysmal working conditions in restaurants inside and outside Illinois.”

U.S. Department of Justice appeals pesticide ban

Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting — September 28, 2018

Clorpyrifos is among the most extensively used pesticides in the United States, but for more than a decade, critics have sought to ban it, citing brain damage in children, among other concerns. In 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed prohibiting its use on food or water sources. Less than a year later, the agency reversed its decision. In August, a federal appeals court ordered the agency to ban the chemical, but the Department of Justice has requested another hearing. That request has been lauded by the Secretary of Agriculture and more than 45 agricultural organizations. Previously from WCIJ: ‘Strict’ pesticide rules fail to erase threat to Wisconsin’s drinking water

Wisconsin prison officials in one year investigated 132 claims of staff sexually abusing or harassing inmates

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — October 5, 2018

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that, in one year, Wisconsin Department of Corrections officials investigated 132 complaints of “correctional staff in positions of power creating intimate interactions or relationships with inmates.” The department found sufficient evidence to prove 11 percent of the complaints, and 24 percent are still under investigation. Although some of these relationships are initiated by inmates, legally they are considered unable to consent due to the power differential. These numbers are part of a national trend: claims of prison staff assaulting or harassing inmates rose 191 percent from 2011 to 2015. Previously from WCIJ: Waupun guard named repeatedly in abuse complaints

Tony Evers proposes to fine pharmaceutical companies over ‘excessive’ price increases, expand SeniorCare

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — October 8, 2018

Gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, stating that “that too often health care isn’t affordable in Wisconsin,” announced on Monday a plan to create a state board with the power to challenge prescription price hikes and fine drug companies and refund consumers if it deems a price increase “excessive.” The plan would also ban contracts that prohibit pharmacists from explaining cost-saving methods to customers, and it would bring back former Gov. Jim Doyle’s plan to import prescriptions from Canada. A spokesman for Gov. Scott Walker criticized Evers’ plan, saying it offers “more government and fewer choices.” Previously from WCIJ and Wisconsin Health News: Costs of widely prescribed drugs jumped up to 5,241 percent in recent years, joint investigation shows

Here’s a look at what’s happening behind the scenes at the Center: We will be participating, along with 16 other news organizations, in Facebook’s Local News Membership Accelerator, a three-month program of training, mentorship, funding and experimentation designed to help participating organizations “serve their communities and build compelling membership programs.” If you’d like to learn more about the project, click here. If you have suggestions on what you would like to see in a WCIJ membership program, just reply to this email!

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