American Sewer Services has asked if it can wait until next week to go before a group of city officials who expressed outrage after photos surfaced showing gun-touting employees and a cooler bearing a Ku Klux Klan sticker at the company’s job sites.
Representatives of the Rubicon-based contractor were originally to appear before a Common Council committee on Thursday to talk about the separate incidents – which, occurring about a week apart from each other, led local officials to question the company’s policies and fitness for work on public projects. That meeting has now been rescheduled for Monday.
Of the two images that outraged city officials, the most recent showed a lunchbox decorated with stickers depicting a Ku Klux Klan symbol and a Confederate flag. The other showed three workers – later identified as American Sewer Services employees – with handguns at a job site near North 19th Street and West Meinecke Avenue.
Earlier this week, Milwaukee Common Council members announced they had scheduled a special meeting of the council’s Steering and Rules Committee for Thursday. American Sewer Services representatives were expected to attend to discuss the offending photos and any policies they’ve adopted in response.
Bill Arnold, a Common Council spokesman, confirmed on Wednesday that the meeting had been rescheduled at the prompting of the company owner. He declined to repeat the reasons given for the request.
American Sewer Services did not return phone calls or emails on Wednesday.
City leaders said the meeting will give the company a chance to explain itself and talk about any changes being made to prevent similar things from happening in the future.
“This issue is bigger than a sticker or gesture; the attitudes behind them impact our city, and especially minorities, in very real ways,” Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton said in a written statement. “I want to be clear that such behaviors have no place in this city and will not be tolerated in any public workplace.”
Alderman Khalif Rainey, meanwhile, said he plans to ask about the company’s recruitment and hiring practices, and where its employees live. In a statement, he said that too many public-works job sites “include no individuals of color.”
Since the photos appeared on Facebook, American Sewer Services has fired at least two of its workers and laid off two others. The company issued a statement this week saying it is considering various revisions to its policies.
“We look forward to working with city leaders to help restore their trust in us,” the statement reads.Follow @alexzank