Commentary: Milwaukee strong

Molson Coors brewery in Milwaukee
Molson Coors brewery in Milwaukee

Last updated on March 2nd, 2021 at 09:50 am

For many years the Miller brewery has been the heart and soul of Milwaukee.

An iconic company, making the Brew City’s signature product, for 165 years. It has sponsored and supported many community organizations and institutions, including Miller Park, home of the Brewers.

Now part of Molson Coors, the company has 1,300 employees in Milwaukee. Last fall it announced plans to restructure and move hundreds of additional jobs here. Many of us work, have worked or know someone who works or has worked at the Miller (now Molson Coors) brewery in Milwaukee.

The company’s strong ties to this community only made the devastating news of a mass shooting there even more painful.

Six people died in the incident, including the gunman, according to police.

The victims were young and old, city-dwellers and suburbanites. They were fathers, husbands and grandfathers. Dana Walk, 57, of Delafield, was an avid fisherman and a die-hard Packer fan. Gennady Levshetz, 61, of Mequon, was a proud grandfather. Trevor Wetselaar, 33, of Milwaukee, had served in the U.S. Navy where he operated a nuclear reactor on board a submarine. Dale Hudson, 60, of Waukesha, loved hunting and fishing. Jesus Valle Jr., 33, of Milwaukee, was described as a loving family man.

They were so much like any of us. Then they went to work one day, and didn’t get to return home to their families.

It will take time for employees, friends, family members and the community to grieve and process this tragedy. It has been wonderful to see so many rally around the families of the victims to support them in various ways.

There is still much we don’t know about what happened on that horrible day at the brewery, and police continue to investigate and are urging the public to “wait for the facts of the investigation to be released rather than speculating and generating a false narrative…”

But the incident has brought attention to one of Milwaukee’s biggest problems: segregation and racial inequality. Rumors have persisted that the actions of the suspect (an African American man) were racially motivated. But Milwaukee Police say “neither race nor racism has been identified as a factor in this incident.”

However, Molson Coors acknowledged the suspect had experienced racial harassment at work. In 2015, a noose was found on his locker. An investigation by WDJT-TV Channel 58 found 21 discrimination complaints filed with the state’s Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division against the company over six years, though none involved the suspect.

“There’s no two ways about it,” Molson Coors spokesman Marty Maloney said. “We have more work to do. Fostering an inclusive and welcoming workplace is something every organization has to work towards each day, and we aren’t going to shy away from our responsibility to take a deep look at our own culture.”

In the wake of this terrible tragedy, hopefully the company and our community grow closer and stronger, together.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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