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.”
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.
Working people come together to make Lambert an economic engine for all of St. Louis
ST. LOUIS– Janitors at St. Louis Lambert International Airport voted overwhelmingly to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 to raise standards at our city’s airport and ensure travelers enjoy the best experience possible. SEIU Local 1 represents 50,000 working people across the Midwest including more than 6,000 in the St. Louis region.
“Our airport should be an economic engine for our entire city, not just the airlines. That means fighting to raise standards at Lambert and making sure airport jobs are good jobs,” said St. Louis Lambert International Airport Janitor Lasean Smith. “Lambert is the first place many people see when they visit St. Louis, and by coming together on the job, we can make that experience for travelers even better.”
The janitors, who are employed by Regency Enterprise Services, will hit the bargaining table in the fall to kick off negotiations for a contract that guarantees annual raises and a voice on the job.
The decision to join SEIU Local 1 comes as Missouri’s working families face unprecedented attacks from state politicians. Earlier this year, Governor Eric Greitens signed Right-to-Work legislation in an attempt to silence working people on the job. This summer, the governor and Republican legislators cut the St. Louis minimum wage, slashing pay for more than 30,000 working families by up to 23 percent. But even in the face of adversity, working people continue to unite on the job for higher wages, affordable benefits, and a better future.
The four-year contract will increase wages and stabilize scheduling for the more than 250 part-time faculty members, who voted in March 2016 to unionize and join the Service Employees International Union Local 1.
“This ratification is a really big moment for SCC adjuncts in gaining respect and recognition on campus,” Lisa Decarli, part-time faculty member in sociology, said in a statement. “Through this contract, not only will we get pay raises, but we’ll also have increased job security, a formal grievance process, and a respected and powerful voice on campus.”
Congratulations to our Local 1 brothers and sisters at SCC on ratifying their first contract! Be sure to read the full story over at the St. Louis Business Journal.
ST. LOUIS – St. Charles Community College part-time faculty members overwhelmingly ratified their first contract, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Trustees on July 17, 2017.
The four-year agreement, expiring in 2021, will increase wages; stabilize scheduling for the part-time faculty members; allow part-time faculty equal academic freedom with full-time faculty; and improve the lives of the faculty, and more importantly, the students at St. Charles Community College.
“This ratification is a really big moment for SCC adjuncts in gaining respect and recognition on campus,” said Lisa Decarli, part-time faculty member in sociology. “Through this contract, not only will we get pay raises, but we’ll also have increased job security, a formal grievance process, and a respected and powerful voice on campus. I’m so thrilled to be part of this national movement to make higher education fairer.”
The agreement demonstrates the vital role part-time faculty play in the world-class, innovative learning environment that the college provides. St. Charles Community College is committed to expanding access to higher education and professional and career development for students, businesses and communities served.
“Part-time faculty are an important part of the SCC community,” said Barbara Kavalier, Ph.D., SCC president. “We are pleased that continued collaboration between the team has resulted in an agreement that demonstrates their value and improves the student experience.”
The more than 250 St. Charles Community College part-time faculty members voted to join Service Employees International Union Local 1 on March 3, 2016.
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Service Employees International Union Local 1 unites 50,000 workers throughout the Midwest including janitors, security officers, higher education faculty, food service workers, and others. Local 1 is committed to improving the lives of its members and all working people by winning real economic justice and standing at the forefront of the fight for immigrant, racial, and environmental justice.
St. Charles Community College is a public, comprehensive two-year community college with associate degrees and certificate programs in the arts, business, sciences and career-technical fields. SCC provides workforce training and community-based personal and professional development as well as cultural, recreational and entertainment opportunities. For more information, visit www.stchas.edu.
Two months ago, Cynthia Sanders got a raise at her janitorial job, from $8.30 to $10 per hour, after St. Louis passed a law raising its minimum wage. The extra money has helped the 51-year-old cover groceries and utilities as she raises three grandchildren.
But in just a few weeks, Sanders’ pay rate could drop back down again, thanks to a new law Republicans in the Missouri legislature passed invalidating St. Louis’ minimum wage.
“It was life-changing to get this, and it’s going to be life-changing to have it taken away,” said Sanders, who cleans four kitchenettes and eight bathrooms per shift at a Wells Fargo building downtown. “You’ve got children looking at you to be a provider. How do I tell them we’ve got to eat noodles again this week?”
Like other low-wage workers in Missouri and beyond, Sanders finds herself caught in a political and legal battle between local Democrats and state Republicans. As blue cities become incubators for progressive policy, their red state legislatures are trying to thwart them through “preemption laws” that forbid cities and counties from implementing their own measures related to the minimum wage, paid sick days, plastic bag taxes and other hot-button issues.
So far, Republican state legislators are winning the fight. In Missouri, for example, the GOP controls both chambers of the statehouse as well as the governor’s mansion.
Under the law Republicans passed in response to St. Louis’ new ordinance, no locality could have a minimum wage higher than the state level of $7.70 per hour. And St. Louis is not the only city immediately affected. A referendum to gradually raise the minimum wage in Kansas City to $15 was slated to go on the ballot in August.
Gov. Eric Greitens (R) said he does not intend to veto the bill. So under the rules of the Missouri Constitution it will eventually go into effect automatically, reverting the St. Louis minimum wage to $7.70 on Aug. 28. It would also preempt the minimum wage under consideration in Kansas City.
As Missouri Governor Eric Greitens lowers the minimum wage for over 35,000 working families in St. Louis, SEIU Local 1 members refuse to go down without a fight! Read the full HuffPost story, featuring Cynthia Sanders, a Local 1 janitor!