“Draft it, introduce it, pass it,” echoed throughout City Hall when local community, faith and labor groups gathered to show their support for the Milwaukee Jobs Act.
The act would require that jobs created with taxpayer money provide good wages and benefits. It also would require community reinvestment in the community from banks that benefit from taxpayer money; put Milwaukee residents to work restoring the city’s infrastructure; and hold businesses that receive tax dollars accountable for creating the jobs they promise.
The legislation was developed by a coalition of 23 local organizations and several Common Council members. The coalition organized a mock hearing in the City Hall rotunda after council members postponed introducing the act until after the upcoming elections.
“We don’t have another three weeks to pass the Milwaukee Jobs Act, we need a jobs act now,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, economic justice program director at Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
All 15 members of the Milwaukee Common Council were given an assigned seat at the “hearing” and were called to the podium to speak. However, the majority of those chairs remained empty. Only two Common Council members attended, Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs (6th District) and Alderman Tony Zielinski, (14th District).
Each time one of the absent aldermen was called to speak, a constituent of the district spoke instead, demanding an immediate solution to the jobs crisis.
“I cannot speak for anyone else, but I know from conversations with and from working alongside some great people here at the council that we will come up with a jobs act that we can all be proud of and that will equal jobs for people in our community,” said Coggs. “That is something that I will continue to fight for and I know that you will too.“
Laborers’ Union Local 113 member Greg Greer was one of the many unemployed workers present at the mock hearing. Greer has been unemployed for more than a year, and learned about the public hearing through his union.
“We need jobs, now!” Greer said.
Council President Willies L. Hines, Jr., who did not attend the gathering, has the power to call a special session to get the Jobs Act drafted, introduced without a committee hearing and passed on the floor, all in the same day, according to Epps-Addison.
Sheila Cochran, secretary treasurer of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council; the Rev. Willie Brisco, president of the Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH); and Lyle Balistreri, president of the Milwaukee County Building and Construction Trades Council, delivered a petition to Hines’ office, asking him to call an immediate special session to take action on the Milwaukee Jobs Act. His secretary told them she would give Hines the petition.
The Milwaukee Jobs Act Coalition also includes 9to5 Milwaukee, League of Young Voters, Voces de la Frontera, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, Wisconsin Jobs Now, United Wisconsin, South Side Organizing Committee as well as labor unions and other nonprofits.