“Social-responsibility” legislation would reward city contractors for hiring unemployed workers

City initiative aims to eliminate barriers to employment

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 10:56 am

Legislation proposed by Milwaukee Ald. Milele Coggs would reward city-hired contractors who make an effort to hire city residents who have traditionally had trouble finding work because they lack a high school diploma or have spent time in jail.

Coggs said she was inspired to draft the legislation after meeting a contractor who employs 104 people, many of whom were formerly in jail.

“Milwaukee is as great as we can make it,” Coggs said. “This legislation is one thing we can do as policy makers to encourage contractors who we are spending taxpayer dollars with to make the barriers to employment a little less.”

The proposal would require the city purchasing director to create a bid scoring system that awards additional points to contractors who make efforts to eliminate or significantly reduce barriers to unemployment.

Contractors are currently scored based on a number of criteria before being awarded a city job. Under the new legislation, if the “socially-responsible” contractor is not the lowest bidder, they could still be awarded the job, as long as the price differential does not exceed the lowest bid by more than 5 percent or $25,000.

The city spent $184 million on contracts in 2017.

“This legislation puts forth incentives to city-hired contractors for them to be a part of a push in doing things differently to help put people back to work,” Coggs said. “I believe these extra efforts can help improve conditions and turn lives around for the better.”

Some of the examples Coggs listed include hiring persons with a felony conviction; assisting current or prospective employees in earning high school diplomas; providing hours of paid sick leave; and underwriting or facilitating services for employees such as obtaining a valid driver’s license, legal aid services, child care and family-related dependent care, and emergency housing.

“To create improved conditions in Milwaukee we will need an all hands on deck approach that asks everyone to do a little extra in their daily work,” Coggs said.

The measure has been co-sponsored by Aldermen Russell Stamper II, Khalif Rainey, Chantia Lewis, José Pérez, Robert Bauman, Ashanti Hamilton and Cavalier “Chevy” Johnson.

It is also supported by the YWCA and 9to5 National Association of Working Women.

Earlier this year, the city terminated a contract and rejected a bid for another with American Sewer Services who employed gun-brandishing workers and an employee who brought a cooler to a work site with a Ku Klux Klan sticker.

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