MILWAUKEE -- A statement from American Sewer Services Monday, December 11th read that an employee whose lunchbox was photographed near 25th and Wells was "immediately terminated." The photo showed the lunchbox with KKK and Confederate stickers at the work site -- the second controversy in days for the company. The photo was obtained by FOX6 News on Friday, December 8th, after we reported heavily all week on another controversial photo showing American Sewer Services workers. That photo was snapped near 19th and Meinecke, and showed contractors with guns at work.
The controversies prompted a rally Monday evening at Milwaukee's City Hall, amid a DPW investigation.
"We wanted to send a strong message that Nazis, fascists, Klansmen supporters are not welcome in the labor movement," Jacob Flom with the Young Workers Committee for the Milwaukee Area Labor Council said.
Individuals from multiple organizations, including Voces de la Frontera and labor groups spoke out in condemnation of these workers' actions.
This, just hours after FOX6 News obtained a statement from American Sewer Services:
"I share the outrage expressed by city leaders over this disturbing display of hate speech. It in no way represents the feelings of American Sewer Services nor our diverse group of employees. The offending employee was immediately dismissed because of his inappropriate actions. We are in the process of updating our internal policies so that we may stop any re-occurrence as well as implementing a new weapons policy. American Sewer Services has had an excellent relationship with the City of Milwaukee for over 30 years. We look forward to working with city leaders to help restore their trust in us.
American Sewer Services, Inc."
A statement from multiple Milwaukee Common Council members Monday indicates the owner of American Sewer Services has been called to appear before a special Steering & Rules Committee meeting on Monday, December 18th at 9:30 a.m., "to address a slew of problems," including the recent controversies.
In a separate statement, Alderman Tony Zielinski Monday called for a review of City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works projects that have been outsourced to contractors over the past 30 years.
“I am very concerned that the workers working on projects in the city no longer reflect the population of the community they are serving," he said in the statement.
An investigation into the photo of the lunchbox revealed it belonged to an American Sewer Services contractor.
DPW officials released this statement on Friday after the photo surfaced:
"This afternoon, the City of Milwaukee became aware of this photograph posted on social media. The stickers are offensive to the Administration and DPW. If, in fact, the cooler with the stickers belongs to an individual working on a City contract, it would be best if the individual works someplace other than the City of Milwaukee. DPW continues to investigate this matter."
One worker was fired, two others were laid off by the company amid the controversy regarding the photo snapped at 19th and Meinecke.
American Sewer Services is in charge of the job site at 25th and Wells, the site at 19th and Meinecke, and several others throughout Milwaukee. While the company is based outside Hartford, their 11 city contracts total more than $1 million.
Amid the contractors with guns controversy, two members of Milwaukee's Common Council received racists messages believed to have been sent by the same individual. The Common Council members shared those racist messages on social media.
There is already a city policy that states employees and contractors cannot have guns at work. A lawyer for the city, however, said that policy might not be enough in a case like this. Lawyers from the city attorney's office advised Common Council members that the policy might not hold up if the council moved to terminate the city's contracts with the company. The lawyer for the city said making it an ordinance would carry more weight, but added the city attorney's staff needs to research the issue more; that includes seeing how the ordinance would line up with right-to-carry laws as well as exploring whether other cities already have a similar ordinance.
The Young Workers Committee of the Milwaukee Area Labor Council has called on the City of Milwaukee "to immediately end all contracts with American Sewer Services," and "to employ union represented city employees at prevailing wage."
The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) have condemned the lunchbox stickers and said in a statement: "In a city that is among the most segregated in the country, we cannot allow hatred to go unchallenged."
They have called upon the city "to hold the contracting company accountable for their actions, including but not limited to a thorough review of the contract award, discharge of the employee, and the addition of language in future contracts to encourage employers to take proactive steps to ensure incidents such as these do not occur again."