Milwaukee coalition rallies against Wisconsin SB 207
October 24th marked the beginning of a self-declared ‘state of emergency’ for several community organizers and a local politician, reaffirmed during Saturday’s Occupy Milwaukee rally. Full details in the video below.
The “Ban the Box” resolution approved unanimously by the Milwaukee County Board on September 29th, 2011 would be overruled by the change in state policy, as the proposed bill would nullify any city or county legislation that attempts to delay the disclosure of felony convictions in order to prevent discriminatory hiring practices. Milwaukee County’s “Ban the Box” removes questions pertaining to criminal convictions from the initial job application for prospective County Employees and urges all public and private employers to do the same. Tenth District Supervisor, Eyon Biddle, introduced the resolution and has voiced what he believes to be the benefits of delaying felony disclosure.
“This legislation is a huge victory and an important first step in preventing recidivism and encouraging reforms to hiring practices,” he stated in a press release after approval by the Milwaukee County Board.
Senators Alberta Darling (R – River Hills), Mary Lazich (R – New Berlin), Rich Zipperer (R – Pewaukee), Terry Moulton (R – Chippewa Falls) and Pam Galloway (R – Wausau) introduced Senate Bill 207. None of the sponsoring senators lives within Milwaukee County.
Senator Darling introduced the bill at the public hearing in Madison. She stated that the legislation would help protect businesses that are crippled financially by discriminatory hiring lawsuits. Darling was reported to have left the hearing immediately after introducing the bill, choosing not to listen to the debate that followed.
The Madison hearing was well attended by residents of Milwaukee, who shared their opposition to the bill and requested that a public hearing be held in the city before the bill was voted on. Many organizers feel that Milwaukee residents, especially members of the African and Latin American populations, will be disproportionately affected.
Democratic State Senator Lena Taylor of Milwaukee requested the Committee on Labor, Public Safety and Urban Affairs hold an additional public hearing in Milwaukee. Despite the requests of Milwaukee residents, the motion failed 17-16.
The defeat of Senator Taylor’s motion in Madison has opponents of the bill in Milwaukee working quickly to raise awareness of SB 207. On Friday, October 28th , organizers held an emergency press conference at Urban Underground on Fond du Lac Avenue and Capital Drive in the heart of Milwaukee’s inner city.
At the conference, Occupy the Hood—Milwaukee organizers Khalil Coleman and Chance Zombor announced that a people’s hearing will be held in Milwaukee on Wednesday, November 2rd at 6:00 pm at the Almagamated Transit Workers Local 998 Union hall, 734 N. 26thStreet in Milwaukee.
Occupy the Hood is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York City and has spread nationwide. According to the Facebook page of the national Occupy the Hood movement, their mission is to increase the involvement of people of color in the greater Occupy Movement.
“Our request for a public hearing was denied by the state government, so Occupy the Hood put together a people’s hearing. We don’t need the state government’s permission to have a hearing, we intend for our voices to be heard, regardless,” stated Zombor.
Despite no official sanction, Occupy the Hood—Milwaukee hopes that a grass roots hearing on November 2 will be the spark to light opposition to Senate Bill 207.