By Karen Stokes
The focus was primarily businesses and reaching out to the Black community last Saturday for Senator Tammy Baldwin during the latest stop in Milwaukee on her ‘In Your Corner Tour.”
Baldwin 56, the first woman elected to represent Wisconsin in the U.S. Congress was elected to the Senate and has been a member since 2013. She previously served three terms in the Wisconsin Assembly, representing the 78th district, and from 1999 to 2013 represented Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district in the United States House of Representatives.
For over a week Baldwin traveled throughout the state connecting with people and listening to their concerns. She’s made stops in Racine, Kenosha, Janesville, Monroe, Potosi, Gays Mills, Cashton, New Richmond, Milltown, Eau Claire, Wausau, Stevens Point, Fitchburg, New London, Oshkosh, Appleton, Milwaukee and Green Bay.
“One of the things that I’m working on and I’m really excited about is the Partners Act,” said Baldwin.
The Promoting Apprenticeships through Regional Training Networks for Employers’ Required Skills (PARTNERS) Act establishes a grant program to support the creation and expansion of industry and sector partnerships to help small and medium sized businesses develop work-based learning programs and provide mentoring and support services for workers.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about apprenticeships and people recognize a time when higher education costs so much and student debt impacts a lot of folks and I think it has a disproportionate impact on the African American community so the idea of earning while you learn is really attractive,” said Baldwin.
Cochran added, The Partnership Act was birthed out of conversations and working with WRTP/Big Step. There’s no reason we can’t build a profitable and viable retail industry that exists in the African American community in Milwaukee, better than it currently does.
According to Mkeblackbusiness.com more than 7,000 black businesses exist in the Milwaukee area, a city whose population identifies as 40% African American, roughly a quarter of a million people.
There are groups of workers in society that aren’t usually targeted for apprenticeship opportunities. Returning veterans, who have acquired skills in the military that could be applicable for jobs here and people who were formerly incarcerated, the apprenticeship would provide employable skills.
“Policies that I’m working on that I think would be meaningful for job training opportunities dealing with stubborn unemployment and closing the skills gap. Right now, the obstacles seem to be the power the outside interests have and colleagues who have different priorities,” said the senator.
She continued: “There’s a commitment to employing locally, they can build stronger communities with small businesses, small businesses are the job creators.”
The tour allowed Baldwin to see these small businesses up close. She engaged with business owners and listened to the public on issues that concerned them.
The senator, along with her staff visited Coffee Makes You Black, BP gas station on Atkinson, Kings Fresh Market, Rise and Grind restaurant, Pete’s Fruit Market, Garfield’s 502 lounge and Gee’s Clippers.
Gaulien Smith (Gee) has been in business in Milwaukee for over 22 years and owns one of the largest black-owned barbershops in the Midwest. Gee’s Clippers moved to their new Bronzeville location over a year ago. Gee has been utilizing an apprenticeship program for a number of years.
“Gee has literally trained the next generation of barbers,” said Baldwin.
She continued: “I heard from many small business owners that we talked to along this journey today that they are wanting more opportunities for training and retaining people but most don’t have a budget for it because they are just getting by.”
Later in the afternoon, a team of business owners gathered at a meeting to introduce themselves to Senator Baldwin and discuss their businesses. Attendees were: Adrianne Hunter-Servant Manor, Jeff & Lynne Speller—working to open a school of fashion-Edessa school of fashion, Cliff Phelps-JCP Construction, Ariam Keste-AK Development, Sam Belton-City Net Cafe, LaZonnie Belton-VHD Institute of Cosmetology and Annette Washington-Commercial banker BMO Harris.
“In terms of jobs and training to help workers get ahead, that would be one of my highest priorities,” said Baldwin.
Colas stressed on the radio the importance of voting and how voting influences your everyday life.
If you want to donate, support or volunteer go to TammyBaldwin.com or visit her campaign office at 5040 W. North Avenue.
Baldwin will face Republican State Senator Leah Vukmir in November’s general election. The general election will be held Nov 6, 2018.