Fighting for ALL workers equally 

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By DAVID A. COOK
President

By the time most of you are reading this it will be June, and that means we’ll officially be in Pride Month.

As many of you know, Local 655 prides itself (no pun intended) on being an inclusive organization that fights for ALL workers equally. Just a few weeks ago our Schnucks partners ratified a contract that now includes protections from discrimination for gender identity and expression. In the last few contracts we have fought hard to include language to protect all our LGBTQ+ partners from discrimination the same way we protect partners from discrimination based on race, creed, national origin, sex, and more.

GENDER-AFFIRMING HEALTHCARE
As of January of this year, I’m proud to say that gender-affirming healthcare is now covered by our Health & Welfare Fund, which makes it easier for our trans partners to seek the care they need. We made sure our union contract and our Health & Welfare Fund ensures benefits and protections for same-sex couples and we believe in the dignity and equality of ALL workers.

FIRST LABOR UNION TO JOIN PRIDE PARADE
Some of you probably know that several years ago, Local 655 became the first Labor union in the state to participate in the St. Louis Pride Parade. I will hold that moment as a badge of honor and an example of how we lead the way. We don’t walk in the Pride Parade because of any political agenda, we do it because this organization holds to the most basic tenant of Organized Labor: together we are all equal, we are all part of this union family, and all workers deserve to earn good wages and benefits, and all workers are entitled to fair treatment on the job.

When we say “all workers” we mean ALL WORKERS.

I’m proud to say that since we joined the parade, I see more union organizations joining every year, including our sister Local 88 here in St. Louis. I’m proud to say we were on the forefront because being first is a reflection of the seriousness of our commitment. 

I don’t care what the color of your skin is, or what God you worship, or what language you speak, or what person you love, or how you identify: you are my partners in this Local, and I will fight for every single one of you.

MISSOURI LAGS BEHIND
Sadly, Missouri lags behind in many ways. One of those ways is that Missouri is one of a small number of states that does not protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination under the law.

For those that don’t understand what that means: it is illegal to fire someone just for being black, or a woman, or a Muslim or a Christian. Yet, in the state of Missouri, a boss can legally walk up to a LBGTQ+ employee and tell them “I am firing you because you are gay” and there is no law to stop them.

A UNION CONTRACT IS YOUR BEST PROTECTION
Until that law changes — and it must change — a union contract is the only protection these individuals have from discrimination at work. Protecting workers on the job from discrimination and making sure they and their loved ones have the same benefits as their fellow union partners isn’t remotely political: it is the basis of the Labor Movement. 

We aren’t perfect. Our state isn’t perfect. Our culture changes quickly and I understand that some people might find those changes a little confusing at times, but when our moral imperative is to support all our partners equally on the job, the issue is crystal clear for us.

A special message from President Cook

Last year, a man walked into a King Soopers supermarket in Colorado and killed customers and employees. Our UFCW partners in that store were hailed as heroes for helping to get customers to safety. Just a few weeks ago, a Tops Friendly Markets grocery store in Buffalo New York was attacked by a man with racial motivation. A UFCW partner was killed along with several customers.

Last week, 19 students and two teachers were slaughtered in a classroom in Uvalde, Texas. Seventeen more were injured, including police officers. I have no words to express my grief when I hear these stories. Every day I’m terrified we’ll get the call: one of our stores has been attacked, or one of our partners has lost a child to gun violence.

I won’t tell you I have answers to put an end to the violence that plagues us. All I know is something must change because America deserves better than this. No one should put their life at risk going to work or going to buy groceries, and our children shouldn’t have to worry about being butchered by a maniac every time they walk into school. Something must change!

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