Last week Tuesday, the County’s Parks, Energy, and Environment Committee treaded on dangerous ground. They voted to approve a Memorandum of Understanding (generally a non-binding agreement) that did not exist with a green organization they knew little about. Only 2 of 7 supervisors on the committee raised concerns about the MoU being MIA.
That’s only part of the story.
The Parks Committee approved the MoU with Emerald Cities Collaborative (ECC), an organization where labor leaders moonlight as environmentalists. In last week’s committee meeting, Supervisor Joe Sanfelippo grilled a local labor representative of the ECC, Pam Fendt, over initiatives on their national website that advocated wealth sharing, excise taxes to fund green projects, and an effort to establish exclusive project labor agreements with partnered cities.
“On the surface, it looks like we’re seeing energy conservation ideas, but the Emerald Cities website is pretty much 100% devoted to organizing labor.”
Not anymore, Joe. The ECC website no longer promotes wealth sharing, excise taxes, or project labor agreements. Since Sanfelippo’s remarks, ECC has remodeled its website doing away with key philosophic and policy ideas.
Earlier this week, ECC’s website’s mission statement reinforced the importance of “wealth sharing.” But if you do a google search now, you will get a “Page not found.” If you google “Emerald Cities Collaborative” and “excise taxes,” you'll find their “National Initiatives,” but nothing about excise taxes. Google “Emerald Cities Collaborative” and “project labor agreements,” you'll get three entries from their website, but none of them talk about project labor agreements.
Is it just a coincidence that all ECC’s ideological content went missing a two days before Milwaukee County government is set to vote on a formal agreement, that three principal objections Sanfelippo had raised on the committee floor are no longer on the ECC website?
If Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic wants to deepen and expand her Green Print program (why she calls it Green Print makes no sense to me), that’s one thing. But building a sustained partnership with an organization that's willing to dump key precepts and strategies before a vetting is cowardly and deceitful.
Therein lies an additional concern: why are so many labor leaders and liaisons entering the green industry? Before it was scrubbed from their website, ECC conceded that there was no market demand for “greening” metropolitan areas. So, they persuade government entities to add bureaucracies - like Dimitrijevic’s Office of Sustainability for instance - tasked with the responsibility of finding buildings to retrofit.
ECC has found 400 buildings in Milwaukee County they believe need retrofitting - roughly half of the buildings owned by the county government according to ECC Milwaukee’s website. (Yes, I took a snapshot of their webpage in case they decide to copy and delete).
If the county stipulates to exclusive project labor agreements with ECC, they will have created a new market to help resurrect labor unions on the taxpayer dime. Some may have no problem with this, but don't hide what you are to get what you want; be upfront with the ones that bankroll your ideas.