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State News Roundup: Caterpillar, Union reach agreement in Milwaukee

Union workers have approved a new six-year contract at the Caterpillar mining equipment plant in South Milwaukee. It's the first contract since Caterpillar acquired the plant in 2010 from the former Bucyrus International. It freezes wages-and-pension payments - but it includes a four-thousand-dollar signing bonus, plus annual bonuses based on the company's performance. The workers could get up to 18-thousand dollars during the life of the contract. The deal also includes shorter temporary layoffs. Local 1343 of the United Steelworkers union had rejected a similar contract in April. Union officials said yesterday's vote was very close, but they did not release the final results. They said about 95-percent of the 800 eligible workers voted. Caterpillar calls it a "fair, reasonable, and comprehensive agreement."


Wisconsin's average gas price dropped below four-dollars a gallon this morning. The Triple-"A" said regular unleaded sold for a statewide average of 3.99-point-seven - down from 4.01-point-two yesterday. Prices hovered about four-dollars since late last week, after a refinery near Chicago was shut down longer than expected for maintenance. Gas Buddy analyst Tom Kloza said the refinery at Joliet Illinois is back online, and another large refinery in northwest Indiana vows to ramp up production soon after its maintenance work is done. Kloza said this is the busiest refinery reconfiguring period we've seen in a generation - and he added that "the worst is over." A year from now, Kloza said we should all benefit from the cheap crude oil that's flowing from Canada. Meanwhile, folks in neighboring Michigan are not lying down and accepting the higher gas prices. A Republican state lawmaker is drafting a bill to encourage a new oil refinery to locate there. Democrats question whether Michigan's attorney general is doing enough in investigating high prices.

It appears that a massive line of powerful thunderstorms will miss Wisconsin for the most part. The national Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma says a derecho (deh-ray'-cho) will spread tornadoes and-or heavy straight-line winds across a wide swath of the eastern U-S between Milwaukee and Baltimore. The storm center says the Milwaukee region has a risk level for severe weather that's 15 times the normal for a June day. In the Chicago area, the risk level increases 45 times the norm. Officials say one-in-five Americans could be affected. National Weather Service forecasters in Wisconsin say there's a small chance for tornadoes in the Badger State this afternoon and evening - especially in the far southeast near the Illinois border. There's a slight risk of severe thunderstorms south of a line from Wisconsin Dells to Port Washington. Southwest Wisconsin expects two bands of thunderstorms this morning and later on - but nothing severe is in the forecast for now. Forecasters do not project severe weather in central and northern Wisconsin for either today or tomorrow. Highs today are expected near 80 throughout the state. Somewhat cooler temperatures in the 60's-and-70's are predicted for tomorrow into Saturday.


A missing 85-year-old man from Iowa has been found safe in southern Wisconsin. Casper Robinson of Anamosa Iowa was missing since Monday night after he left a relative's house. Yesterday, somebody called Dane County authorities after seeing a confused man standing on Highway 14 near Mazomanie. A deputy identified Robinson, and his family was called to help get him back home.


Milwaukee Catholic Archbishop Jerome Listecki will celebrate Mass at the city's Polish-Fest on Sunday morning. The gates open at 9:30 at Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee's lakefront. Readings and music will be in both English and Polish. Julie Wolf of the Milwaukee Archdiocese said Listecki celebrated Mass at most of the city's lakefront festivals during his first year as the archbishop - and he still appears at as many events as possible.