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Job Seekers Take a Stand for Family-Supporting Jobs

A young mother of three shared a story of leaving her job as a stripper to seek respectable employment — only to find she’d be trading a family-supporting income for a non-living wage. A young man recounted, through an interpreter, how he left Mexico to make a home in Milwaukee and is overwhelmed by the lack of employment opportunity. An educated, disabled veteran told officials of his dismay at being told he was overqualified at job fairs. These job-seekers, part of a “We Want Work” (W-3) effort launched by the People’s Economic Summit campaign, met with officials at City Hall to demand action on employment issues. They filled room 301B, determined to be heard and taken seriously. Mindy Williams of the Community Union gave the floor to the men and women who came to speak, several testifying to their own personal difficulties in finding adequate employment. A few felons were in attendance and shared the consequences of being turned down repeatedly for jobs. One felon spoke of having to resort back to “making a living on the streets.” Others spoke of the ways their lives could change with the implementation of the People’s Economic Summit pilot-jobs program proposal: A proposal that asks officials to help establish a co-op made up of 15 owner/workers who share the mutually-owned (co-op) business, matched with 15 public service jobs. Additionally the proposal asks for funding for 500 public service jobs at $12 an hour plus benefits. Despite sending out more than 40 invitations to all members of the Common Council, the Mayor, County Supervisors, County Executive, and state legislators, just five officials attended. State Representative Spencer Coggs, County Supervisor Tony Zielinski, Alderman Don Richards, Alderman Paul Henningsen, and Alderman Michael Murphy’s aide, Emily Dobbins. Rich Oulahan spelled out exactly what officials could do in response to the concerns brought forth by Milwaukee’s job-seekers. 1. Organize a meeting with Mayor Norquist and County Executive Scott Walker 2. Help find funds from the Common Council for the co-ops and public service jobs 3. Go after MPS for failure to hire school-area residents for construction jobs as required by their own contract Coggs committed to “taking on” the MPS issue. Henningsen agreed to arrange a meeting with Mayor Norquist and to help with block grant funds for co-ops. Richards volunteered to put the issue of “funding for public service jobs out of the Large Impact Development Program” on the Common Council’s Community Development Committee’s agenda, which he chairs. Zielinski committed to obtaining a meeting with County Executive Scott Walker. Dobbins will keep Murphy updated. For more information on the “W-3” Jobs Campaign, and to stay up-to-date on its progress, please contact Mindy Williams at 671-0251.
by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle