Another Sunday and another ridiculous fact-deprived Eugene Kane column in the state’s largest newspaper. This week he posited that the mining bill moving through the legislature in Madison will not provide jobs to the thousands of unemployed blacks in Milwaukee. Instead, he said it would have been a better idea to keep the half-fast train and possible train shed jobs that it would have brought, since Milwaukee’s blacks would have benefitted from that.
He even insisted that mining jobs in Iron and Ashland counties would never help Wisconsin’s blacks since they would be uncomfortable moving to those predominately white communities to find work.
Mr. Kane, you are sooooo wrong on this. And let’s stop focusing on only one race in need of jobs and look to all of Wisconsin’s races - white, black, Native American, Hispanic and Asian - when developing employment opportunities.
Expanding mining in Wisconsin will help all our citizens create and find jobs - starter and family living-wage jobs. Mining jobs pay well, well enough to draw people who desperately want to work to even the remote areas of Northern Wisconsin. Plus the increase in family-living jobs in Northern Wisconsin will lead to more service and support jobs in the region, leading to more opportunities for everyone.
Plus, no one in Iron, Ashland, Oneida, Vilas or Price counties would say “no blacks here” to a family moving to the area bent on working hard and contributing to the community.
And even if blacks don’t or won’t want to move to some of the most beautiful parts of this state, there is another minority group that would benefit greatly from new jobs that pay a fair wage for a fair days work, Native Americans.
The unemployment rate of Native Americans in Iron and Ashland counties rivals that of blacks in the inner city of Milwaukee. Unless they’re working at the casino or for the tribal government, job opportunities are few and far between for the region’s Native Americans. Mining jobs will be open to all races, including the Native peoples who desperately need jobs in the region.
But back to Milwaukee. Kane’s premise that the black community won’t benefit from mining jobs in Northern Wisconsin and will have no opportunities from it ignores the existence of Joy Global and Bucyrus in Southeast Wisconsin.
You know that giant shovel on the corner of Miller Parkway and National Avenue? It was used in an iron mine in Northern Michigan, not far from the proposed Gogebic Mine in Hurley. And it was made right here at the Joy Global P&H plant in West Milwaukee. On a bus line that runs right through the inner city.
Other mining equipment is made in South Milwaukee, a short drive from other neighborhoods that have high unemployment and are in need of jobs.
Those factory jobs, in Milwaukee, are family supporting and will increase as demand for mining equipment increases, and as mining expands in the state. And guess what, those jobs would require the same skill sets that the choo-choo jobs needed. Something Kane and his ilk feel the African American community could handle.
So Mr. Kane, don’t dismiss the mine just because it’s 400 miles from 3rd and North. There are plenty of opportunities for all Wisconsinites with this job creation bill, far from home and right down the street.
Patti Breitigam-Wenzel is a veteran Wisconsin journalist who blogs at GovFreak.