It’s well known that the small things in life matter since they are a reflection of the bigger aspects that govern our lives. This lesson is bound to hit home for a Wisconsin construction company than anyone else.
This is after employees displayed a Ku Klux Klan sticker and openly brandished firearms at work last month could lose some pending contracts with Milwaukee worth nearly $1 million.
Considerations were also made by a panel of the Milwaukee Common Council on Thursday whether to permanently bar American Sewer Services from ever bidding on contracts and compelling the company's owner to testify before them
The next two weeks will leave the company in suspense as it awaits the votes on resolutions, which are a response to two photographs from early December, to be made. "Given the number of facts we have now, a reasonable person would say that racism is clearly tolerated" at the company, said Alderman Nik Kovac, a member of the city's Public Works Committee.
One of the pictures shows a company employee's cooler showing a KKK sticker. The photo was taken by and posted on Facebook by immigration activist Sam Singleton-Freeman. The other photo which was posted on Facebook shows two workers holstering guns and a third has a firearm in his hand.
Reports indicate that the three workers are white and the photo taken in a predominantly black neighborhood reads, "this is how you finish concrete in Milwaukee."
"The idea that you would feel it necessary to be armed and to brandish a weapon in a majority black neighborhood while you're still on the job is deeply entrenched in racial fear," Kovac said, adding: "Let's just call it racism."
In response, American Sewer Services has said it fired the workers responsible. However, the company's owner, Dennis Biondich, has angered some aldermen because he failed to attend a meeting with them set on Dec. 18 to accommodate his schedule. An employee he sent in his place said he was dealing with unspecified medical issues.
"He still has not had the decency, the respect, or the responsibility to come before this council and face this situation like a responsible business owner, like a man," said Alderman Russell Stamper, who is sponsoring the three resolutions.
Having worked for the city for more than 30 years, the company has 11 pending contracts worth more than $50 million. One of the proposals aldermen are considering would terminate two contracts worth about $900,000. Other contracts are more than halfway finished and ending them would hurt the city more than the company, said Ghassan Korban, the public works commissioner. He said Biondich is willing to not contest the termination of the two contracts.
"We're all concerned, but we're losing our sense of proportion here," Alderman Robert Donovan said. His comments led to a tense exchange with Kovac, who said Donovan's remarks were "symptomatic of the general sense of ignoring when possible and then immediately forgiving racism.”