New United Way initiative aimed at reducing African American unemployment in Milwaukee area

Goal is to reduce unemployment by 15 percent by 2025

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A new initiative of United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County is aimed at reducing unemployment among African Americans in the Milwaukee area by 15 percent by 2025.

United Way Diversity Leadership Society Council co-chairs Jasmine Johnson, Grady Crosby, and Tami Garrison.

United Way’s Diversity Leadership Society announced this week it will work to tackle unemployment disparities over the next seven years by financially supporting adult education programs, advocating for laws that reduce employment barriers for non-violent offenders and researching why diverse talent leaves the region at high rates.

“Family sustaining employment is paramount in stabilizing our neighborhoods, and United Way is uniquely positioned to address this critical need,” said Joel Peterson, diversity development and community engagement manager at United Way. “By convening key institutions from the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors around reducing barriers to employment, we will collectively make meaningful impact in our community.”

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According to a 2017 report from the National Urban League, the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis metro ranked last among 71 urban areas for its unemployment gap between African American and white Americans. Unemployment for black Americans was 13.8 percent, while unemployment for white Americans in the area was 2.7 percent, according to the report.

The Diversity Leadership Society said it will financially support programs that help adults learn to read, earn their GED or other employment credentials, and teach English as a second language. It will also support Driver’s License Recovery for residents and Universal Driver’s Education programs for students in Milwaukee Public Schools.

“This initiative will not only assist individuals with driver’s license recovery, but also help bring back universal drivers education to students who financially are unable to take such programs privately,” said Milwaukee Municipal Court Judge Derek Mosley, who is a member of the Diversity Leadership Society Council. “By doing this, we will drastically improve driving habits and also open up employment opportunities around the region that have previously been unavailable to many in our community.

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The group plans to advocate for laws that promote expungement of records from public databases for non-violent offenders, which is a common roadblock for those seeking employment.

“It is imperative that the Diversity Leadership Society plays the lead role in advocating for expungement of records for non-violent offenders,” said Jasmine Johnson, USGR government relations and corporate affairs for Pfizer Inc. and a co-chair of United Way’s Diversity Leadership Society. “From barriers to employment to the right to vote, both are critical components to advancing our community and economy.”

The group will also commission a survey tool to understand why diverse talent leaves the region. According to a 2017 study, Wisconsin is the 10th most outbound state in the country, with more than 60 percent of movers leaving the state for a job.

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“When this community collectively decides to address challenging issues in order to change outcomes, we’ve seen great things happen,” said Grady Crosby, vice president public affairs and chief diversity officer at Johnson Controls and a co-chair of United Way’s Diversity Leadership Society. “Increasing opportunities to obtain gainful employment is a community enhancement goal worthy of this strategic focus spearheaded by the United Way’s Diversity Leadership Society.”

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