CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. — Troubled Wisconsin grocer Gordy’s Market, which has stores from Rice Lake to La Crosse, announced Wednesday it will be laying off 1,008 workers by Oct. 28, unless it can find suitable buyer or buyers for Gordy’s stores.
“Please be aware that business circumstances may change and that all employees may not be permanently laid off if the Gordy’s entities are purchased and remain operational. It is impossible for us to determine at present which employees may be affected, if any,” said a letter sent to employees dated Tuesday by Michael S. Polsky.
Polsky was appointed last week as a receiver for Gordy’s, in charge of a financial restructuring of the company.
He continued: “If the Gordy’s entities are ultimately closed, or if the buyers do not hire any of the Gordy’s employees, we expect it to result in the permanent elimination of all 1,008 employees. This includes both union and non-union employees.”
“We regret having to make the decision; however business and industry circumstances leave us no alternative,” he wrote.
The layoff notice was disclosed by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. The layoff, if it takes place, will dwarf any other in the state in 2017.
The largest previously announced layoff was made in April, when Gander Mountain announced it would lay off 371 workers.
According to the notice, the layoffs will be in the cities of Arcadia, Augusta, Barron, Black River Falls, Chetek, Chippewa Falls, Cornell, Eau Claire, Galesville, Hayward, La Crosse, Ladysmith, Neillsville, Rice Lake, Richland Center, Shell Lake, Spencer, Stanley, Tomah and Whitehall.
Some of the layoffs already have occurred. Gordy’s closed its south side Chippewa Falls store, along with Stanley and several other locations, including Hayward.
Gordy’s is selling one store in Tomah and two stores in Eau Claire to Festival Foods and is closing a third Eau Claire location along East Hamilton Avenue.
Last week the grocer was sued by its supplier, Nash Finch. Gordy’s appointed a receiver to run its financial affairs.
Gordy’s home office at its Lake Wissota location in Chippewa Falls had no comment about the notice from Polsky.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has modified operations of its lock and dam in Genoa in an effort to slow the upstream movement of invasive carp in the Mississippi River.
The changes, designed to stop Asian carp with minimal impact on native fish and barge traffic, are in response to recommendations from University of Minnesota biologist Peter Sorensen, who has been researching fish movement with a grant from the Minnesota Environmental Trust Fund.
Sorensen first studied how fast and far carp can swim and then used computer modeling to evaluate the flow of water through the gates.
“What we found was two things: for most of the time they were incapable of going through gates in most conditions — it was just too fast,” Sorensen said. “It really roars through most of the time.”
But under certain conditions, the flows were imbalanced, giving adult carp a chance to swim through where there was less current.
Sorensen recommended some minor adjustments that he said will even the flow and could cut carp passage, which he believes is relatively low, by more than half.
“To their credit they were very receptive to that idea,” Sorensen said. “It’s to their advantage, because by balancing velocities it also has the potential to reduce erosion. It’s a win-win.”
Corps project manager Nan Bischoff said the changes won’t cost anything and still allowing the Corps to fulfill its mission of maintaining a 9-foot shipping channel
“We just revise our operational charts,” she said. “The lock master and lock staff knows what adjustments (to make).”
In 2014, Sorensen installed underwater speakers to keep carp out of the lock at Genoa. The speakers broadcast low-frequency sound waves that deter carp but don’t affect native species.
The Genoa dam is the first of the 29 on the Upper Mississippi River to undergo modifications, and Corps spokeswoman Shannon Bauer said it is the first time the Mississippi Valley Division has ever changed procedures in response to invasive species.
The flow models were also modified to accommodate the concerns of Mark Clements, whose family has operated Clements Fishing Barge immediately below the dam since 1936.
Sorensen is now studying flows at Lock and Dam 5 in Winona in hopes that changes there could stop any carp that make it that far from reaching the Minnesota River. His researchers are also monitoring the impact of the changes on other fish species at Genoa.
According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, bigheaded and silver carp are now abundant and reproducing in Iowa, about 100 miles south of Genoa and continuing to move north. In 2008, a silver carp was discovered in pool 8 of the Mississippi River. Bighead, silver and grass carp have since been found as far north as Hastings as well as on the St. Croix River.
The DNR warns invasive carp can devastate local ecosystems by overcrowding native species and eating all their food. Silver carp, which can weigh up to 60 pounds, are also startled by the sound of propellers and create a hazard for boaters when they leap out of the water.
“They’re probably just about everywhere, a few scattered ones,” Sorensen said. “It hasn’t been enough to spark reproduction. If we can reduce those with no cost … it’s low-hanging fruit.”
It’s not often your boss promises you a promotion after he finds someone else to replace you.
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse administrator Barbara Stewart, who is currently the interim vice chancellor for student affairs, will become the university’s first vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. A search is underway to fill the vacant student affairs position, which was left by Paula Knudson earlier this year when she left UW-L for a position in her home state at the University of Northern Iowa.Gow announced the creation of the new cabinet-level position during his annual chancellor’s welcome on Wednesday to faculty and staff.
The division of diversity and inclusion will join student affairs, the provost’s office, finance and administration and affirmative action as part of the leadership team on campus.
“What I believe that it means is that UW-L is committed to making the campus community as diverse and inclusive as possible,” Stewart said. “It means that diversity, equity and inclusion have been given campus-level vision and scope. This organizational change will put diversity and inclusion at the center of the campus life and bring more attention and focus to diversity and inclusion at UW-L.”
Gow said he hoped to have the student affairs position filled before the start of the spring semester, after which Stewart will take on her new role. The new position will oversee numerous programs and offices on campus including Campus Climate, the Office of Multicultural Student Services and the TRIO student services program.
At the welcome, Gow said some of the final discussions leading up to creating the new position occurred just before the events in Charlottesville, Va., a few weeks ago where white nationalists clashed violently with counterprotesters and resulted in the deaths of at least three people. Gow and his cabinet sent a response to the incident via email, where they shared their heartbreak over the violence and called on students, faculty and staff to work toward fostering a safe, respectful, and welcoming place for all people.
“Our hearts go out to the families of the three brave people who lost their lives responding to a shocking display of hatred and violence by white supremacist groups,” the letter read. “The First Amendment to the United States Constitution ensures ‘the right of the people peaceably to assemble,’ and, tragically, that was not the case in Charlottesville. The three people who died that day powerfully remind us that anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism and bigotry are not just a shameful part of our history; they are with us today.”
Increasing diversity and equity at the campus is one of four pillars of the UW-L strategic plan, which was approved in December. According to U.S. Department of Education data, only 11 percent of students at UW-L are non-white, compared to a 25 percent average at peer institutions including Winona State University, UW-Eau Claire, the State University of New York Brockport and Western Washington University.
While the campus has demographics comparable to the city and the county, Wisconsin is about 20 percent non-white and Gow has spoken of the need to achieve parity with the state’s demographics. Among the goals of the diversity pillar in the strategic plan are achieving that demographic equity for students, staff, faculty and administrators as well as providing inclusive educational experiences for all students and increasing the visibility and participation in diversity and inclusion efforts across campus.
Issues of diversity have come up during the past few years on campus, including protests over the university’s handling of a Hmong heritage language course, outrage over a move-in weekend banner students hung off campus that contained a lewd message targeting female students and protests and a teach-in on race after a derogatory drawing was found on a white board in one of the residence halls.
Faculty and staff have voiced their desire for more prominence of diversity actions on campus and Gow said he was glad to be able to meet that need as well as promote someone at the university who has done outstanding work during her time there. Along with her work leading student affairs, Stewart has overseen numerous diversity programs and initiatives on campus and was the 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award recipient.
“This was the ideal way to acknowledge the outstanding leadership Barbara has provided,” Gow said. “And signal how important our diversity and inclusion activities are going forward. This is a historic development for the university.”