I live in the Sherman Park neighborhood and I lived there for over 24 years. When I awoke last Saturday night to all that was happening watching it on the news and listening to the helicopters hovering over head, I had a lot of thoughts, but not one of them was leaving my home and neighborhood.
Ours is like every other neighborhood in Milwaukee and what has happened isn’t good but shouldn’t be treated in some reactionary fashion that continues to ignore, suppress and oppress people that go about their lives everyday doing all they can to continue to live their lives as we expect. We are a city of neighborhoods, neighborhoods that struggle and fight back. Not all of our citizens know how to fight back in the most effective way, clearly burning and looting aren’t effective strategies in getting positive attention, but in the 24 hour news cycle it certainly did get attention.
So now that there is all this negative attention, the type of attention we tell ourselves isn’t effective, what happens? Just the opposite; we unfortunately say one thing and do another. It doesn’t matter what we say, it is when there is an uprising or insurrection of some type attention is drawn. Each day since the shooting and the “unrest” there is speculation that every incident near the Sherman Park area is somehow connected. We know this because news reporters keep restating and speculating. Members of organized labor know full well how insurrections come about. We also know from experience that it isn’t always the positive work you do that gets the attention.
We know that poor public policy, punitive and bad legislation has affected not only Sherman Park, but this entire city. Sherman Park has lost great jobs and many institutional fixtures that kept this areas affluence for many years. Worse yet the promise of new industry in Talgo, an investment of 810 Million dollars in building trains that gave this community so much hope, stripped away before our very eyes is still a bitter pill to swallow, hope of jobs and more stability, gone.
It is the greatest hypocrisy imaginable to have Governor Walker praying for peace in Sherman Park when he ravaged the rights of its very citizens with impunity! As much as we decry the vandalism, the reality is “poor public policy” has done more damage than the vandals and fires of this unrest. None of us gets a free ride in the ills of Milwaukee, the culpability touches us all.
There are over 2100 union members who live in Sherman Park; we represent 40 disciplines, including fire and police. There are plenty of questions being asked and more than enough people that know the answers, but the politics of suppression, rejection, punishment and disinvestment have to end!
Trust me know one knows that better than we do. We stand in Solidarity with our neighbors, all of them and are more than wiling to do our part.
Written by Sheila Cochran, COO and Elected Secretary-Treasurer, Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFL-CIO