Promote and protect equality, equity, and human rights through education, enforcement, and community engagement.
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 were inclusive to all Milwaukee citizens. Since 1944, the Committee has evolved (including at least five changes to the committee name) in both scope and responsibility. Over time, the Committee 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 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. 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.
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.
The New Equal Rights Commission
Compliance & Enforcement
Outreach & Education