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About Us


Promote racial, social and economic equity to the residents of Milwaukee.



"A Milwaukee where opportunity is abundant and accessible to all."



In 1944, the City of Milwaukee established a Mayor’s Committee on Inter-Racial Relations. The Committee had the charge to examine community issues, make recommendations and support policies that support every Milwaukee citizen’s right to an equal opportunity to live and work in the city. Since 1944, the Committee has evolved (including at least five changes to the committee name) in both scope and responsibility. Initially the Committee examined relationships between Caucasian and African-American populations, but over time, was given the latitude to develop policy recommendations related to equal opportunities in housing and employment beyond race and include gender, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disabilities, lawful sources of income, marital status, sexual orientation or familial status. In 1958, the Milwaukee Common Council formalized the Committee’s stature through the approval of a resolution that specified the terms of membership and specific terms of office. In 1994, the Committee was renamed the Equal Rights Commission (ERC) and became the initial point of contact for Milwaukee residents to file a concern or complaint regarding employment and housing discrimination issues within the City of Milwaukee. The ERC received, investigated and resolved these complaints. In 2003, the ERC function and associated staff was consolidated under the auspices of the City of Milwaukee Department of Employee Relations. In 2007, the City of Milwaukee Common Council increased the number of categories in the function of the ERC to include gender identity or expression, past or present membership in military service and an individual’s affiliation with, or perceived affiliation with any of the protected categories. A strategy session, facilitated by Mayor Tom Barrett in June of 2008, highlighted the need for the ERC to become re-vitalized and re-invigorated. Despite the increased role of the ERC on paper since 2001, the current specified functions of the Commission had been somewhat diluted. There were several reasons for this. The City of Milwaukee had developed the Commission on a historical parallel track with both state and federal initiatives. What was once unique to Milwaukee became part of a larger umbrella of state and federal departments. In addition to the City of Milwaukee – Equal Rights Commission, the State of Wisconsin Equal Rights Division (ERD), the Federal Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) all provide city residents with resources that provide intake on complaints and initiate investigations in the areas of housing and employment. All three agencies also have statewide authority to remedy discriminatory practices—something the ERC was unable to offer outside of the jurisdiction of the City of Milwaukee.


The New Equal Rights Commission

In 2009, the City adopted a new ERC model by shifting from a complaint investigation model to a model that relies on oversight and accountability activities, community collaboration and partnerships with private, non-profit and academic institutions for prevention, education and training purposes. This model recognized the importance of the City’s role in promoting racial, social and economic equity by relying on three important principles:

  • The City should eliminate duplicative services provided by other federal and state agencies in the areas of employment and housing discrimination. The ERC should limit its investigative and enforcement activities to discriminatory employment and housing practices not addressed within the jurisdiction of federal and state agencies; and,
  • The City should establish an internal accountability structure to effectively assess, monitor, and influence how programs and services are designed, administered, and delivered in ways that address equal rights need of Milwaukee residents; and,
  • The City should partner with other community stakeholders to facilitate, coordinate, and/or implement awareness, prevention, and education strategies to address the City’s equal rights challenges and ensure residents are aware of their rights and responsibilities under the laws.
When the Equal Rights Commission was re-established in 2009, the objectives statement recognized that “City government is uniquely positioned to assume a primary leadership role in promoting equal rights, equity and a social fabric free of discrimination. To achieve this leadership objective, each department, agency and unit of city government shall be accountable for promoting social and economic equity for all residents of the city, and structuring their work so that the outcomes are directed toward social and economic equity for all residents.” This statement challenged the city to not only be free of discrimination, but to proactively address social and economic equity in all of its work. With that understanding, the re-vitalization of the ERC included legislation that created an accountability structure for City departments to structure programs and services in a manner that assures the equal rights of all who live and work in the City. This charge is consistent with the City’s vision of a “Milwaukee where opportunity is abundant and accessible to all.” This mission includes a commitment to:
  • Building safe and healthy neighborhoods;
  • Increasing investment and economic vitality throughout Milwaukee;
  • Improving workforce development and connecting more citizens to family support jobs;
  • Helping children succeed, prepare for post-secondary education and meet their full potential;
  • Promoting racial, social and economic equity for all; and
  • Sustaining, enhancing and promoting Milwaukee’s natural and environmental assets.


ERC logo  

Contact Us

City Hall
200 E. Wells Street
Room 606
Milwaukee, WI 53202  



Under Chapter 109 of the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances, the ERC is responsible for monitoring the employment, contracting and program activities of the city; preparing timely report to the Mayor and Common Council on efforts to promote equal rights and opportunities; promoting positive community relations; and eliminating discrimination and inequities in city government and the city as a whole. These responsibilities fall within two primary categories: internal (city government) and external (the community). To address the responsibilities associated with these categories, the ERC established the following committees:

  • Accountability Committee - This committee will oversee, monitor and promote City activities and programs.
  • Community and Neighborhood Engagement Committee - This committee will ensure mutual relationships are established with community organizations, the academic community and the private sector, for the purpose of promoting equal rights.

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