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Community Union Holds MPS Accountable in Hiring Initiative

by Kenyatta Yamel / photo by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle

In a meeting with the Community Union, MPS Superintendent William Andrekopoulos pledged stonger efforts to correct the failure of the Neighborhood Schools Initiative to meet its goal of 25% local hiring in this first year of a $300 million/three-year contract. The Superintendent had agreed to organize a meeting with contractors and residents, to use the full power of the law to ensure contractor compliance with the agreements, including fines, and pledged that contractors who do not meet the hiring guidelines will no longer be contracting with MPS. The Community Union has been challenging MPS for ten months for failing to enforce the local hiring agreement. The union points to more than 200 workers they say are qualified and should have been hired, according to independent certifiers John Anderson of Esperanza Unida and Cristal Binn of the Milwaukee Urban League. Recently, contractors failed to appear at a meeting with Community Union and MPS Neighborhood Schools Initiative staff. Outraged, 30 workers attended the press conference and meeting to pressure Andrekopoulos. A multiracial group of workers testified about their experience in seeking construction jobs. Among the contractors drawing workers’ wrath were Voss Jorgensen Schueler Co. of Milwaukee, JP Cullen & Sons, Inc., and Platt Construction. Edward Crockett was one of the first African Americans seeking entry into local construction trades. A bricklayer since the 1960’s, he initiated a class action suit against MPS. He has contacted both the MPS and Milwaukee County programs without securing a job. Kenneth La Belle of Spotted Eagle, Inc., put it bluntly, “I want to work today.” He is out of work despite his status as a journeyman sheet metal worker, which he achieved after serving a five-year apprenticeship. A Riverwest resident and MPS parent, Yvonne Brown, said she “felt cheated” because the Neighborhood Schools Initiative has not helped her or her children. Noel Christiansen and Dan Sharp told of their battles as young black men. Sharp said, “I have a wife and child and another baby on the way. I’ve got to feed my family. I want a job!” Prospects for unemployed and under-employed workers remain grim in light of published reports that there is only one job available in Milwaukee for every eleven job seekers. On September 6, Community Union will be participating in Fighting Bobfest at the Sauk County Fairgrounds in Baraboo. Their next regularly scheduled meeting will be Saturday, October 4, at the International Building, 611 W. National, starting at 10 a.m. For more information, call 671-0251. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 9 – September 2003
by Kenyatta Yamel / photo by Tanya Cromartie-Twaddle