Construction organizations featured in lawsuit against Wisconsin government

The government of the US state of Wisconsin—which made international headlines last month when soon-to-be-erstwhile President Donald Trump idiotically claimed that the state’s election had been rigged for President-elect Joe Biden—wants to publicly identify companies that have had outbreaks of Covid-19 among their workforces.

Now construction groups in Wisconsin are joining Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (a coalition of pro business—i.e. anti worker—groups) in suing the state government to prevent it from moving forward with the plan. They claim that making such a list public would do irreversible damage to the companies in question, and furthermore that it would be a breach of federal laws by divulging people’s private health information. Of course, they also hate the idea of the state babysitting them.

Specifically, as the Daily Reporter reports, the government wants to publicize the names of approximately 1,000 businesses of 25 employees or more that have at least two workers who have either (1) tested positive for the virus or (2) had close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

The state was dismissive of the lawsuit, arguing that Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce had no basis for its legal challenge. This position was seconded by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel—one of the state’s largest newspapers—on Monday during a hearing before the Waukesha County Court. The paper, which had previously called for the company names to be published back in June, filed a motion in conjunction with the state asking the court to reject the lawsuit.

The motion was unsuccessful, with Judge Lloyd Carter expressing concern over a “scarlet letter” type situation.

“We’re talking about businesses who are teetering on the brink of failure,” Carter said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We’re talking about release of data with potential for irreparable harm to those businesses.” 

This was music to the ears of the business lobby and its construction allies, which include the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, the Associated General Contractors of Wisconsin, and the Plumbing, Mechanical, Sheet Metal Contractors’ Association of Wisconsin, among other groups.

Kurt Bauer, CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, commended the court’s ruling to allow the lawsuit to go forward.

“We applaud the court’s decision today that will keep this information private,” he said. “Gov. Evers said himself that this is not public information, and we are hopeful the temporary injunction granted today will soon be permanent.”

Jeffrey Boyle

Jeffrey Boyle is from Madison, Wisconsin, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in business communications. When he's not reading or writing about construction equipment and machinery, he can probably be found walking--or being walked by--his three Boston Terriers.

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