John Bauknecht, Milwaukee, was the recipient of the 2017 Pnazek’s Box award. The award, named after Karl S. Pnazek, long-time CAP Services CEO, recognizes an individual who, through Innovation, Initiative, Insight and Integrity creates “out-of-the-box” ideas/programs that have a positive impact on the people served by CAP or any similar organization.
For more than three decades, John has helped migrant workers through his efforts as corporate attorney for Milwaukee-based United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS), including a stint based out of UMOS’s Wautoma offices.
John traces his interest in helping migrant workers and immigrants to his childhood, as he watched the migrant farmers work potato fields near Antigo. That’s when he became aware of the challenges workers faced with poor working, housing and health conditions, compounded by a lack of legal protection.
John, whose grandparents immigrated to the United States from Europe, has always felt strongly about the contributions immigrants make to our country, including modern migrant workers.
In addition to providing legal guidance to UMOS, John was a driving force in developing the organization’s housing department. He has worked with state and federal agencies to secure funds to build housing for migrant workers, including four facilities in Wisconsin and one in Minnesota. He also has used his lobbying skills to promote civil rights for immigrants. John’s efforts extend to pro bono legal representation of some UMOS clients facing legal challenges such as immigration status, wage claims, safe working conditions, housing and human trafficking – where individuals were brought from other countries under false pretenses.
John serves on the Wisconsin Community Action Program Association (WISCAP) Board of Directors and the Wisconsin Farmworker Coalition. John holds a bachelor’s degree in Education from UW-Stevens Point and earned his JD from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 1979. He began working for UMOS in 1982 after spending about four years with the North Dakota Migrant Council.