They Ruined Our Lives
Union members fight city loan to Wangard Partners, delaying proposed Park East development.
“Stewart Wangard is a job killer,” read one of the signs held by union activists at Thursday’s meeting of Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM).
At issue was a $1 million brownfield loan requested by Wangard Partners from RACM to assist the company in the estimated $1.8 million cleanup costs for Park East Block 26, which is contaminated with metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and volatile organic compounds. The remediation work is necessary to allow for the development of a $22 million 86-unit apartment building.
But the request was opposed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, which has opposed multiple approvals for this development, because Wangard Partners fired 12 union contractors at 875 E. Wisconsin Ave. Had the loan been approved the project was scheduled to begin construction in November 2012 (not the September 2012 date that had been reported) and completed in February 2014.
Peter Hanranhan, Vice President SEIU Local 1, spoke out against the loan approval saying, “Wangard’s actions ruined the lives of the janitors at 875 E. Wisconsin.” The city, he declared, shouldn’t use taxpayer dollars “to assist an irresponsible owner.”
Dave Somerscales, Union Representative at SEIU Local 1, disputed these claims. “I think the commission should know you’re being mislead,” Somerscales said. He contended the new firm does not pay a union wage and does not provide health insurance.
Ald. Willie Wade questioned Wangard regarding the Clean Power contract, and Wangard offered to provide a copy of the contract to the commission to prove his truthfulness. Wangard reiterated that the contract states “at all times it has to be at or above union wage.” Wangard also described the 12 month process that Wangard Partners went through prior to dismissal of the union firm, which included an audit of the quality of services being delivered and multiple warnings of non-performance.
The Redevelopment Authority voted 3-1 to delay the approval of the loan to allow for the discrepancies regarding the janitorial contract at 875 E. Wisconsin to be cleared up. This resolution will be taking up again at the September 20th, 2012 RACM meeting.