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Addressing a Crisis: “W-3” Jobs Campaign Prepares for May 10 Meeting with Officials

by Paul Boyd

More than 50 central city job seekers came together for a March 29 meeting at the Esperanza Unida International Building, 611 W. National, to talk about their need for family-supporting jobs and plans for a scheduled May 10 meeting with public officials. Mindy Williams and Rich Oulahan gave brief presentations on the Summit’s pilot jobs program proposal for 15 owner/workers to share a mutually owned business, matched with 15 public service jobs such as aides in schools, community security, and housing rehab work. Unemployed residents attending the meeting came up with a variety of businesses to be considered, including day care, cleaning, tissue factory, an advanced G.E.D. instruction program, and other products used broadly in the community. The pilot projects are planned as the first phase of fully implementing the People’s Economic Summit’s “W-3” (We Want Work) campaign for 500 public service jobs at $12/hour plus benefits. The W-3 proposals and the campaign grew out of door-to-door surveys of W-2 families in early 2001 and the formation of the People’s Economic Summit. This action coalition, currently endorsed by 40 Milwaukee organizations, held a citywide gathering on October 27, 2001. The 600 attendees created and unanimously approved a platform covering job creation and access, human and civil rights, vocational training, rethinking economic development, and meeting human needs. The Summit campaign group calls for the implementing 500 jobs with funds provided by local, state, and federal sources. In the first stage of the campaign, the Milwaukee Common Council on June 4, 2002, unanimously endorsed a W-3 resolution, followed by the County Board’s approval on July 25. However, the mayor, county executive, and the city/county legislative bodies have failed to take further action to fulfill their resolutions’ stated commitment to find the funds. Most recently, Summit delegations have also made presentations to the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Agency (WHEDA) and the State Department of Workforce Development, both of which expressed initial interest. At the same time, hundreds of job seekers have turned in cards delivered to Mayor Norquist, requesting his personal assistance in helping them find a family-supporting job. The urgency of the jobs campaign becomes clearer every day. Manufacturing companies, which represent 20 percent of the state’s employment, took a loss of 3,800 jobs in February, while the construction industry lost 3,000. Locally, Milwaukee suffered 44 percent of the state’s 2002 job losses. One job is available for every eleven Milwaukee job seekers. A UWM study produced the following information: in the neighborhoods surrounding 27th Street, North Avenue, and King Drive, the number of employed residents fell by over 63 percent from 1970 to 2000; 59 percent of the working age population of the central city was either unemployed or not in the labor force in 2000. Job seekers working on this issue will meet with local public officials on Saturday, May 10 at 10 a.m. at City Hall, 200 E. Wells Street (Market Street entrance), in Room 301-B. Invitations have been sent to all members of the Common Council, the mayor, county supervisors, the county executive, and Milwaukee-area state legislators. The meeting, which has been arranged with the assistance of Alderman Don Richards, will focus on the employment and unemployment experiences of Milwaukee’s central city job seekers, and their interest in family-supporting jobs. Call Mindy Williams at 671-0251 for information on how to get involved in the W-3 campaign. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 5 – May 2003
by Paul Boyd