KANSAS CITY – The following is a statement from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 janitor Sandy Hinson in response to Governor Eric Greitens’ State of the State address. Hinson was a leader in the fight to raise Kansas City’s minimum wage for working families, which passed via petition initiative with 69 percent of the vote before being preempted by state law:
“Governor Greitens promised higher pay for Missouri’s working families. His administration has delivered the exact opposite.
“Governor Greitens has made it harder for working families to put food on the table. From lowering St. Louis’ minimum wage for 30,000 working people to taking away the right of Missouri voters to raise wages in cities across the state, he has shown nothing but contempt for those of us working hard to make ends meet.
“In 2018, the working people of Missouri will remind Governor Greitens who pays his salary by repealing Right to Work, raising Missouri’s minimum wage, and reforming our state’s broken campaign finance laws.”
SEIU Local 1 Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) custodians, food service workers, and maintenance mechanics are coming together on the job for a strong new contract, a brighter future, and safe and healthy schools for KCPS students and teachers!
Local 1 members are an important part of the KCPS community. Together, they help make sure the schools run every single day. They’re hitting the bargaining table again on Friday, November 3, to make sure KCPS understands the importance of their work.
Local 1 food service worker Desiree Saunders put it best. “We need to strengthen our workforce, because a stronger workforce means better schools for everyone,” she said. Stand with KCPS janitors, food service workers, and maintenance mechanics as they stand up for a brighter future and a stronger KCPS!
SEIU Missouri/Kansas State Council: “Justice Was Not Served” in Stockley Verdict
ST. LOUIS –The following is a statement from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Missouri/Kansas State Council President Nancy Cross and State Council Treasurer Lenny Jones:
“This morning, Judge Wilson acquitted former police officer Jason Stockley in the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith. Three years after the killing of Michael Brown sparked days-long protests, Judge Wilson shows that our region has still learned nothing from the sins of the past.
“We have a long way to go in winning racial justice in Missouri. As an organization dedicated to dismantling structural anti-black racism, SEIU recognizes that we cannot separate the fight for racial justice from economic justice.
“Justice was not served for Anthony Lamar Smith. Our prayers are with his family today. SEIU members will continue to fight back against police brutality and will not rest until real justice is attained.”
The Missouri Legislature and Gov. Eric Greitens’ heartless rollback of St. Louis’ $10/hour minimum wage took effect last month, but local elected officials, business owners and workers’ advocates are hoping to override state lawmakers at the ballot box.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger joined activists, workers and Democratic legislators on Aug. 28, the same day the state’s wage rollback legislation took effect, to rally support for a ballot initiative to implement a $12/hour minimum wage statewide — up from the current $7.70/hour – with voters having the final say.
Krewson and Stenger joined cooks, cashiers, janitors, nursing home workers, home health aides, city aldermen, faith leaders, small business owners and activists in a rally at Urban Chestnut Brewing Company in The Grove neighborhood to announce their plans to resist the state law – which Greitens allowed to take effect without his signature – nullifying St. Louis’ $10/hour minimum wage and blocking a voter approved increase in Kansas City.
“Raising the minimum wage is really about strengthening families,” Stenger said. “I come from a working family and I know that improving incomes across Missouri will help workers better care for their children and loved ones.”
RAISE UP MISSOURI
Stenger, Krewson, Columbia Mayor Brian Treece and Kansas City Mayor Sly James and other elected leaders have endorsed a grassroots effort led by Raise Up Missouri to collect the signatures required to place a statewide $12/hour minimum wage initiative on the Nov. 2018 ballot. If approved by voters, the measure would gradually raise the statewide minimum wage by 85 cents a year until it reaches $12/hour in 2023, impacting about 500,000 workers – or one in five Missourians.
Workers will need approximately 100,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot.
“More money in workers’ pockets means more money in businesses’ pockets,” Krewson said. “That’s what drives the economy forward.”
Workers and their allies also vowed a renewed push to convince employers to raise – not lower – the pay for working people in St. Louis. So far, 135 St. Louis employers have taken the pledge to #SaveTheRaise and continue paying the $10 minimum wage in the city, despite the state’s heartless rollback.
“In this community, we know that working people’s wages should go up, not down,” said Rev. Jon Stratton of Trinity Episcopal Church in St. Louis. “That’s why 135 mom and pop shops in this city have already pledged to keep the $10 minimum wage. Now we’re going to join workers in protest of big corporations cutting pay, and work together to put a $12 statewide minimum wage on the ballot in 2018. We won’t be dragged down by politicians in Jefferson City. Instead, we’re going to raise up this city and this state.”
Low-wage workers, elected officials, faith leaders and St. Louis business owners joined forces to launch the #SavetheRaise campaign in June after Gov. Greitens allowed the law nullifying the St. Louis and Kansas City minimum wage to become law. Since the campaign’s launch, restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, pet stores and the Treasurer’s Office of the City of St. Louis all have joined in the effort, pledging to pay their employees $10 an hour or better.
“As a St. Louis-based company, the success of our business depends greatly on the growth of our city so raising wages for working families is important to us,” said Florian Kuplent, co-founder and brewmaster of Urban Chestnut.
“By investing in our people, we are investing in the revitalization of the St. Louis community, and that’s good for our business and ultimately for St. Louis.”
Despite the success of the #SaveTheRaise campaign, many workers at big chains like McDonald’s and local companies like Schnucks Markets received a pay cut Aug. 28.
Workers waged increasingly militant protests across the city as rollback neared.
St. Louis workers sat in and refused to leave two McDonald’s stores where workers had been told their pay would drop.
In Kansas City, workers held a “die-in,” laying down en masse at the doorstep of the offices of fast-food lobbyists at the Missouri Restaurant Association, which lobbied hard for the rollback of local wage hikes.
UNIONS ARE THE KEY
McDonald’s and other fast-food workers also held staged a protest in St. Louis on Labor Day, kicking off a massive protest campaign that included underpaid workers across the city’s service-sector economy seeking $15 an hour and union rights.
The St. Louis Labor Day protest was one of 300 across the country, as workers across America declared loudly that unions are the key to fixing an economy that is rigged to favor the wealthy.
Wanda Rogers, a McDonald’s worker and Fight for $15 member whose pay dropped to $7.70 an hour last week, said: “Eric Greitens and Jefferson City Republicans may be trying to cut our pay and rig the economy for big corporations, but we won’t back down or stop for one second in our fight.”
KANSAS CITY, MO.—Bill Thompson, 46, grew up believing in the American Dream. When he graduated from college in 1995 with an engineering degree, he assumed he would have no trouble covering his bills along with the middle-class niceties his father, a postal clerk and member of the American Postal Workers Union, was able to provide to his family growing up.
Thompson was hired by a local engineering firm out of college, but his training was soon rendered obsolete by new technologies and he lost his job. With $46,000 in student debt and two young children to support, he was in need of a job—any job. So, he turned to fast food.
Thompson made $8.50 an hour at his first job in the industry, working at a now defunct chain of buffets. That was 1997. Today, he makes $9.10 as a cook at a Burger King just outside the city limits.
“$9.10 an hour isn’t enough to pay my bills,” he says. “The last time I saw a doctor was when I was 15 years old. My teeth are rotting. I can’t see much anymore. I can’t afford the medical attention I need.”
When asked why he decided to join the movement to raise the minimum wage in Kansas City two years ago, Thompson kept it short. “I’m fighting for my life,” he said.
Yesterday, Thompson and thousands of his fellow low-wage workers in more than 400 cities nationwide went on a one-day strike. Their key demands remain straightforward: a raise and a union.
Five years into the Fight for $15, there’s a new objective in battleground states like Missouri: oust the politicians propagating local anti-union laws. The Service Employees International Union, which backs the Fight for $15, announced in August that it is launching a new campaign to unseat GOP governors and other elected officials who oppose minimum wage increases and union rights.
Kansas City has already won a wage increase once this year: In early August, 69 percent of voters backed a resolution raising the city’s minimum wage to $10 an hour on August 24, and $15 by 2022.
But that raise lasted for just four days. On August 28, a new state law took effect that effectively canceled Kansas City’s wage increase, as well as a similar measures in St. Louis. The law, passed in May by Missouri’s GOP-controlled state legislature, prohibits cities from raising their minimum wages above that of the state minimum of $7.70 an hour. The measure is one of dozens of so-called “pre-emption laws” that GOP-dominated state legislatures have passed in order to block blue cities from pursuing progressive measures like minimum wage hikes and paid sick days.
But labor is fighting on more than one front in Missouri, which in February became the 28th state to pass a so-called right to work law. The battle’s not over yet: In August, a coalition of labor groups, led by the Missouri AFL-CIO, submitted more than 300,000 signatures in an effort to put the anti-union measure up for a vote on the November 2018 ballot.
Immigrant workers, who make an average of $150 a week less than their citizen counterparts, marched yesterday with another threat on their minds: Donald Trump’s looming announcement that he plans to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a work permit program for unauthorized immigrants who arrived to the United States as children.
Maria*, a fast-food worker and unauthorized immigrant, was among those on strike yesterday. She has been in the U.S. for more than 20 years and currently makes $10.20 an hour at Burger King. (She is identified by a pseudonym because of the possibility of retaliation by immigration enforcement officials.) Her son, whom she brought to the U.S. when he was a toddler, has been granted DACA. Maria fears what might happen next. Though she has a great deal on her mind, she says, she wasn’t going to miss out on the day’s protest.
“I’ve been with the movement for three years now, and I’m going to keep fighting until we get what we deserve,” she says. “I’m not going to stop fighting because I am scared. It is this—my fellow workers, marching together, that reminds me that I am not alone, and that we can win.”
If higher education truly wishes to help solve the world’s complex problems, it is essential that all voices get a seat at the table, including those of graduate student workers. At Washington University, we need to do more to ensure graduate student workers don’t have to choose between academic success and personal well-being.
We are “privileged to be here,” we graduate student workers are so often told, and we shouldn’t question issues of compensation if we are truly passionate about the work we do. But as long as Washington University insists that we are students only, graduate student workers receive none of the protections afforded to employees under the law, even while we are compelled to remain in this tenuous position in order to complete our degrees.
While Washington U. is ostensibly committed to its role as a beacon of higher learning in the St. Louis community, it is in fact run as a business — and an incredibly lucrative one, at that. But good businesses invest in their employees. By promoting the well-being of the whole employee, Washington U. stands to benefit from higher graduation rates, better job placement, better academic and teaching work, and a healthier spirit of collaboration between students and their faculty advisers.
I believe a graduate student worker union will offer those protections where the administration has failed to do so, resulting in better conditions for workers and increased productivity across the university.
Meredith Kelling • Maplewood
Meredith Kelling is an outstanding, graduate student activist with SEIU Local 1. Her Letter to the Editor appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on August 28th, 2017.
By Bruce Franks Jr.
Gov. Eric Greitens and state Republican legislators have decided to lower St. Louis’ newly implemented minimum wage. That means more than 31,000 hardworking people could lose as much as $400 when the hourly minimum wage drops from $10 back to $7.70 at the end of August. It’s the second time in U.S. history that lawmakers have lowered the minimum wage for working people.
It’s the latest, cruelest act by Jefferson City Republicans in their long war against workers winning higher pay. In 2015, St. Louis passed an ordinance to gradually raise the $7.70 hourly minimum wage — which had only increased 40 cents in the last seven years. Instead of applauding a raise that would improve people’s lives, business lobbyists held up the law with lawsuits. And after workers finally won their day in court and got their $10 per hour in May, Republican legislators rammed through HB 1194, which nullified the increase. Last month, Gov. Greitens made the heartless decision to allow the bill to become law.
Republican politicians in Jefferson City may be dead-set on moving us back, but we as a community still have the power to come together and chart the way forward. That’s why I’m urging employers in our city to “Save the Raise.”
Despite obstruction from Jefferson City, all St. Louis employers still have the power to pay the fair wage of $10 per hour after Aug. 28. And there’s a sound economic reason to do so.
Raising the wage means workers paying the bills on time, putting food on the table and having a little extra money to spend. Studies have shown the more money working people have in their paychecks, the more they can spend locally, making our economy stronger for everyone.
Every year, Missouri taxpayers shell out $2.4 billion to cover the cost of public assistance for low-wage workers. Without a raise for minimum wage workers, taxpayers will continue to be left on the hook while big companies in our area get a free pass.
Without a raise, St. Louis’ rising income inequality will continue to grow — as will the instability it causes. Over the past decade in St. Louis, wages for white-collar workers like engineers and lawyers have risen, while real wages for blue-collar workers and service workers have shrunk by 7.1 percent and 8 percent, respectively. It’s getting harder and harder to get ahead in our city if you’re already on the margins.
Crime, an issue that urgently needs to be addressed in St. Louis, is closely connected to income inequality.
Shortly after deciding to take away workers’ raises, Gov. Greitens announced a plan to fight crime that would increase police presence on our highways and rack up taxpayer bills, but ignore the root causes of crime in St. Louis communities: crushing poverty, deep inequality and a lack of opportunity.
Workers protested his event, rightfully asking the governor: How can you be serious about fighting crime in St. Louis when you want to rip money out of our pockets and food out of our children’s mouths?
As influential members of the St. Louis community, local employers have the power to help tackle crime by saving the raise for their employees. Creating good jobs is a real solution to making our communities strong and safe, by providing opportunities to the families getting left behind by the governor and Jefferson City politicians.
Missouri Republicans, although supposedly the champions of small government, have overreached and tried to take away the voices of St. Louis voters. By pledging to “Save the Raise,” employers in St. Louis should send a message to Jefferson City that a $10 per hour wage is good for their business, good for Missouri’s working families and good for the city’s economy and safety.
Let the obstructers in Jefferson City keep obstructing, because employers can and should take matters into their own hands and move the city forward.
State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. is a Democrat from St. Louis.