UPDATE 10/15: The Common Council unanimously voted to send the Strauss proposal back to the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee for further discussion and community input. Urban Milwaukee has a full recap.
About that “community.” The highlight of the recap is Ald. Khalif Rainey calling out the “we know better,” predominantly white, they-definitely-don’t-live-near-the-proposed-plant protestors who showed up to the meeting. “As I look at the gallery, I don’t know any of these people. None of these people are my neighbors,” Rainey said.
Back in September, Milwaukee was on pins and needles trying to guess the identity of a “long-established Wisconsin company” that was planning on building a “new, state-of-the-art production facility” at the north side Century City business park. It wasn’t long before the mystery company was revealed: Strauss Brands LLC.
Sounds great! Pending final approvals, the Franklin-based meat supplier will build a 175,000-square-foot facility at Century City (currently home to Good City Brewing), and move its headquarters there, as well. It will employ 250 people, with the possibility of an additional 150 jobs. The company hopes to open its doors in spring 2021.
Sounds even better! Hundreds of jobs from a local company, with shop employees getting $13.50 to $17 per hour plus benefits? What’s not to love! Well, for some folks, the whole “it’s a slaughterhouse” thing is less than lovable.
According to the local branch of animal rights organization Direct Action Everywhere (along with Slaughter Free Milwaukee), a protest is set for Tuesday, October 15 at Milwaukee City Hall. Folks are invited to gather at 8:30 a.m., ahead of the monthly Common Council meeting. A Facebook event page goes into more detail:
The City Council is about to approve the construction of a huge SLAUGHTERHOUSE, killing 500 animals a day, without community input! PLEASE be at City Hall, 3rd floor, at the Common Council meeting to have your voice heard! Tuesday, Oct 15th at 8:30 am (meeting starts at 9am). Bring a sign, bring a friend, or just yourself. Not only do animals suffer in slaughterhouses, but workers and the community suffer as well! Rodent infestation, stench, lower home values, and an increase in violent crime and substance abuse is what will occur in a community already struggling.
Urban Milwaukee has some info on how the new Strauss plant will work (and control odor):
Loading docks would be included on each of the building with live animals entering on the west and packaged products leaving on the east. Bussen estimated 10 to 15 trucks a day would visit the facility. A total of 280 live animals would be housed at the facility at a time, all of which would be indoors and would arrive between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. each day.
The company, at least initially, hopes to avoid the use of air scrubbers to control odor. Much of that potential odor would come from what the company calls “the harvest area.”
Don Olson, ESI Group’s vice president of design, said that the harvest process creates the most waste, including offal, blood and hides. A basement below the area would be created to store those by-products as well as manure with trucks able to directly access the storage area.
“Most harvest facilities don’t put a basement in their building. We want to do that because it’s going to help mitigate the odor,” said Bussen. “Our goal is to mitigate 95 percent of the odor.” The CFO said the company would install air scrubbers if that solution does not work.
The protest groups, meanwhile, have prepared a form letter voicing their opposition:
Dear Mayor Barrett and Milwaukee Common Council members,
I urge you all to take a step back from fast tracking the Strauss Slaughterhouse in Century City. This is not just a business and about bringing in jobs. A Slaughterhouse possibly the most egregious type of business to bring into a residential area. The neighbors do not know about this. I understand this deal was crafted quickly, within the last month with no public notification or input into this. There is now a growing group of concerned citizens outraged by what’s happening.
I understand you all may not have understood the impact of this. Many cities, including Chicago are moving away from having slaughterhouses within city limits for all the reasons I have listed below.
I ask you if you would have agreed to this Slaughterhouse being placed in your neighborhood or next to Fiserv Forum or near Whitefish Bay or some residential neighborhood.
Jobs are not just jobs. Slaughterhouse work is among the most exploitative, dangerous and relatively low paid work in the market. Century City would be better served by any other business- Including incubators to support small, local businesses which better serve residents in the long run.
Strauss brands may have committed to transferring their 150 jobs from Franklin to Milwaukee but there is no reason to believe those numbers will increase. Milwaukee can do better and generate 150 jobs in a plethora of other, less base ways without alienating and causing stress and harm to the neighborhoods and to the workers.
Here are some facts about Slaughterhouses
1. Local crime rates go up, especially violent crimes, wherever and whenever slaughterhouses open, according to professor of criminology Amy Fitzgerald who discovered a direct link between slaughterhouses and violent crime.
2. Workers suffer high rates of PTSD, substance abuse and domestic violence.
3. US meat workers are three times more likely to suffer serious injury than the average American worker. Amputations, fractured fingers, second-degree burns and head trauma are among these serious injuries, according to data seen by the Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
4. Slaughterhouse workers we’ve talked to tell us they dread their jobs and would quit if they could find other work. We can all help transition them to better jobs.
5. Blood and feces are plastered all over the walls posing a serious public safety and health threat by exposing workers and communities to food-borne illness outbreaks and increased rodent infestation problems.