'Here & Now' Highlights: Steve Frisque, Lee Donahue

Here's what guests on the November 2, 2023 episode said about a deal to end the UAW strike and the status of "forever chemicals" contamination near La Crosse.

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

November 6, 2023

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Frederica Freyberg sits at a desk on the Here & Now set and faces a video monitor showing an image of Steve Frisch.

Frederica Freyberg and Steve Frisch (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

The United Auto Workers union has come to a tentative agreement in its contract dispute with the “Big Three” automakers, including workers on strike against GM — Steve Frisque is a UAW local president in Hudson who shared impressions of the negotiations. A group of residents from the town of Campbell on French Island near La Crosse filed a lawsuit seeking damages due to PFAS contamination — Lee Donahue, a town board supervisor, described the hardship of living with the “forever chemicals” in their water.

Steve Frisque
President, UAW Local 722

  • UAW local leaders are getting their first look at the tentative contract agreements that broke a six-week long strike against GM, Ford and Stellantis (the former Chrysler). The GM contract deal includes a 70% increase to starting wages, up to $30 an hour. Frisque said the contracts are being voted on first by leaders and then the union membership. What he’s seen on the pay hikes bode well for ratification.
  • Frisque: “It’s a huge increase, especially for our younger members. It’s bringing them up to the wages that the legacy employees that have been here for a long time are at. It’s getting rid of the tears which we have been arguing and fighting for since they were implemented back after the near bankruptcy in 2008-9. Unions were based on equal pay for equal work. That’s our belief. We believe that these younger people should have a path to get to the full wage and make the same as the people that are working next to it. This contract allows that to happen. Cost of living is back in the contract, which we had suspended since the bankruptcy time frame. So I really expect this contract to pass. We obviously need to go over some stuff because we haven’t seen everything in that contract book yet. But I’m very hopeful that we will pass that and send it to the membership for ratification.”


Lee Donahue
Health, Education and Welfare Supervisor, Town of Campbell

  • A group of town of Campbell residents filed a $42 million lawsuit against the neighboring city of La Crosse for contamination from cancer-causing PFAS chemicals. Widespread contamination on French Island — where Campbell is located — is related to firefighting foam that was used for decades at the city’s airport. More than 2,000 Campbell residents are receiving bottled water from the DNR as a result. Donahue described what that’s like.
  • Donahue: “Residents have been using bottled water that has been paid for by the DNR since spring of 2021. We were first notified that there was a possibility that there was contamination in our water in October of 2020. So we’re coming up on three years. And the hardship is, imagine trying to move a five-gallon jug of water. They’re unwieldy. They’re heavy. You have to find a place that you can store them that is climate controlled. You can’t leave them in your garage or your front porch or your breezeway because they will freeze during the wintertime. So it’s a tremendous hardship for people and places to store them and to be able to just heft them around and deal with the physicality of using large bottles of water.”


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