By Nicole Desautels Schulte, Hematite, JoBeth Kay, Rebecca Kemble, Edward Kuharski, Barbara With
Madison — On March 19, the last day of winter 2012, John J. Sendra, chairman of the Republican Party in Iron County, joined Shirl LaBarre of Hayward and Dan Curran of Dodgeville at the Government Accountability Board in Madison as they filed recall papers against Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar).
Just a few weeks before, Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly introduced a resolution to change the Wisconsin Constitution to make recalls more difficult. This constitutional amendment proposal was sponsored by Rep. Robin Vos (R-Burlington, state chair of ALEC). Recalls would be legal only if a crime or a serious ethics violation
The registration filed against Jauch states that he “voted against a Mining Bill SB/488/AB426 which would of (sic) brought 100s if not thousands of jobs to the northland and state of Wisconsin.” That Jauch simply voted against what LaBarre and her party wanted would not fall under Vos’ classification of an acceptable reason for recall if the constitutional amendment eventually passed.
Why did Sendra show up at the GAB on the 19th of March?
Referring to himself as a “concerned citizen,” Sendra, owner of the Cranberry Inn Restaurant and Motel in Mercer, expressed his desire for his business to thrive. He’d like to see an “anchored business” come up North so that people could earn more money in order that “our restaurants could charge higher prices.” Sendra specifically mentioned that he pays the employees at his own restaurant minimum wage, stating, “That’s all I can afford. …That’s all the industry pays.”
Sendra went on to recount his experience the previous night dining at the Tornado Steak House in Madison. “I was at Tornado’s last night for dinner, and I looked at the prices. I had sticker shock. I said, ‘How come I can’t get these where I’m at?’ People can’t afford it,” referring to the depressed economy of the Mercer area. When asked by Craig Spaulding, of Madison, “But you can afford to eat there?” Sendra replied, “I can afford to eat there.”
Let’s look at the two restaurants’ menus.
Tornado’s “Filet au Poivre” (a “10 oz. filet of local grass fed beef with peppercorn crust & mushroom cognac cream sauce”) is $39. Cranberry Inn’s Steak Au Poirve [sic] (a “10 oz choice tenderloin encrusted in fresh cracked peppercorns, pan-seared and drizzled with a brandy cream sauce on a bed of fettucine”) is $34.99 with $2 up-charge for mushrooms.
Across the board, the two restaurants show little difference in prices. Tornado’s are slightly higher, expected for a restaurant in Madison, a half-block from Wisconsin’s capitol building. Mercer, in the beauty of the North Woods, has many home-style, medium- to low-priced restaurants. At $36.99, Sendra’s identical entrée is barely a bargain compared to Tornado’s.
One striking difference is the pay of the employees.
A restaurant in Mercer, Wisconsin is likely to employ high school and college students for the three months of the tourist season. Known as “Opportunity Employees,” workers under 20 years old who have worked for less than 90 days with their current employer can be paid a special (lower) minimum wage of $2.13 per hour for tipped employees and $5.90 per hour for un-tipped employees. (However, if a tipped employee doesn’t earn enough tips during an hour to add up to the minimum wage, the employer is required to make up the difference.) This means at Sendra’s Cranberry Inn, all employees (tipped and un-tipped) would earn a minimum of $5.90 per hour for their first three months, then $7.25 minimum thereafter. 
The owner of the Tornado Steak House takes a different approach. As one regular put it, “Tornado is really a shining example of how to run a business well and I think their prices are pretty good considering what you get and how consistent both the service & food always are.” The manager of Tornado, when contacted, stated that the employee turnover rate at the restaurant is low because of the excellent wages — no un-tipped employee working at the restaurant makes under $9 per hour, and most make $10 to $15 per hour. Compared to Tornado’s owner, Sendra has a considerable advantage in payroll costs for his Cranberry Inn.
What does this have to do with Sendra’s concerned citizenship?
On November 10, 2011, Sendra and Vic Ouimetter, head of Iron County Democrats, signed a joint letter of support for Gogebic Taconite (G-Tac)’s proposed open pit iron ore mine approximately 50 miles from Mercer. It would stretch 22-miles. Is this the “anchor business” Sendra wanted to bring to Mercer to increase his steak prices? The headwaters of the Bad River, only six miles from the Kakagon Sloughs, is home to Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians. This is where their wild rice stands. This is the site of the proposed mine.
At the hearing before the Joint Finance Committee on the mining bill, two geoscientists stated that the exposed remnants of the mining process (tailings) will contain pyrite. When exposed to air and water, pyrite produces sulfuric acid, the same acid that is used in car batteries. Bacteria convert some of this sulfuric acid to hydrogen sulfide. Both sulfuric acid and hydrogen sulfide are harmful to aquatic plants and animals, especially wild rice. Soon after the geoscientists testified, the JFC voted. The bill was sent back to committee, essentially dead. The next day, G-Tac announced it was closing up shop, leaving the state, and withdrawing its exploratory permit request.
Back to Sendra. At what cost would his restaurant’s meal prices be to the rest of the area?
Bad River’s wild rice is harvested to be distributed among all the members of the tribe to eat. It is not a revenue-generating commodity. Comparing the loss of wild rice to the price of a steak is like comparing water to taconite. Watch tourism drop off. Watch real estate prices drop. Watch the price of Sendra’s steaks drop. Once the ore is gone, the mine is gone. Once the ore is gone, the jobs are gone. The boom and bust economic cycle of mining would guarantee an unstable economy, resulting in a new era of sustained poverty.
Sen. Bob Jauch, along with Sen. Dale Schultz, a Republican from Richland Center, stood up and said, “No” to this insanity. For this, GOP members are attempting to recall them both.
Is Sendra just a “concerned citizen”? Did the owner of a high-priced restaurant, who happens to be the GOP chairman for Iron County, give marching orders to the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee? Were recall papers against two senators who dared to vote against a G-Tac mine filed to increase steak prices? Should LaBarre and Sendra retract their recall request? Call Joint Chairs Rep. Robin Vos  and Sen. Alberta Darling  to let them know that if Sendra gets his way, we may have no choice but to watch the Northwoods economy go up in smoke. Like seeing a car accident, we will not be able to keep from watching.
Watch the video of John Sendra, who, when asked about preserving the beauty and natural resources of the land up North, gets visibly annoyed and says, “Why are you living in Madison? Shouldn’t you destroy all these buildings here?… Let’s go back to caves.”
 “The Sulfate Standard to Protect Wild Rice”
 “$2.13 per hour may be paid to employees who are not yet 20 years old and who have been in employment status with a particular employer for 90 or fewer consecutive calendar days from the date of initial employment.”