By TIM ROWDEN
Missouri is in a health and economic crisis that mirrors the rest of the nation. Getting out of it, Democratic candidate for governor Nicole Galloway says, will require putting Jefferson City back on the side of working people.
“When I launched this campaign for governor a year ago, I never could have imagined where we would be today, the crisis that we would be facing today, but I knew then that Missouri working families needed a change, and I am even more certain of it now,” Galloway said during a virtual town hall last week hosted by Fight for $15, the Labor-backed movement to raise the minimum wage and provide union protections for low-wage workers.
“The most important thing the next governor will have to do is defeat this virus and get Missouri’s economy back on track,” Galloway said. “But the truth is, we have so many challenges here in Missouri: a virus that’s impacting our most vulnerable neighbors, the worst economic shock since the great depression, chronic underinvestment in healthcare and education, persistent gun violence in cities across our state, and tough conversations about making Missouri more equitable and just.
“None of these things can be sidelined in favor of focusing on just one, because these issues are interconnected. And if we fail to get the economic crisis that’s devastating budgets at every level under control, we won’t be able to deal with these other issues effectively. We have to get our economy on track, get our schools fully reopened for in-person learning, get businesses back, and stabilize our budgets so we can deal with all of these priorities.
“I’m running for governor to put Jefferson City back on the side of working families and to act with urgency to protect our fellow Missourians,” Galloway said.
ATTACKS AGAINST WORKING PEOPLE
Joining the town hall was Kansas City Chiefs Player Alex Okafor, who with his fellow players stood for a presentation on social justice and racial unity before the game against the Houston Texans on Sept. 10. Okafor said they couldn’t have done that without the support of team management and their union. He asked Galloway what she would do to make sure all workers are valued, treated with dignity and have the freedom to join in a union at their job.
“We have seen the attacks on working people in Jefferson City year after year after year,” Galloway said.
“When voters passed Proposition B to raise the minimum wage in 2018, almost immediately the legislature started filing bills to overturn the vote of the people and overturn the increase in the minimum wage.
“When we voted down ‘right-to-work’ for working families to make sure there’s the ability to organize and to fight collectively for a better workplace, a safer workplace with a good union and good jobs, almost immediately the legislature started filing bills to overturn the will of the people on ‘right-to-work.’
“[We] passed Medicaid expansion and already there’s talk in Jefferson City about not implementing the will of the voters.
“These fights for working people, they’re personal for me, just as they are for you,” Galloway said.
“Government should not get in your way. Government should not limit your ability to provide for your family. These attacks on working people need to stop. I want to see us support our increases in the minimum wage. I want to see folks have access to healthcare. We have to invest in our education system and stop the attacks on working people, on unions and Organized Labor. It never made sense to me how sinking the boats of working people will lift Missouri up. That is not how it works.”
ADVANCING THE LABOR MOVEMENT
Terrence Wise, McDonald’s worker and leader in Stand Up KC and the Fight for $15 and a Union, said despite being a food service employee, and as such an essential worker during the pandemic, and despite working for a multi-billion company, he and his fiancé – who works in a nursing home and in home healthcare – and their three daughters are barely hanging on.
They have been homeless, forced to sleep in their minivan during the winter in Kansas City and, until recently, were living in the basement of a relative because they couldn’t keep up with their rent during the pandemic.
“There’s been times when I’ve worked and not been able to see my own kids, because they’re asleep when I leave for work and they’re asleep when I get home,” he said, asking Galloway what she could do to advance the Labor Movement to ensure workers can have a union and a voice on the job.
Galloway said the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the longstanding cracks and inequality in our economy and made them worse.
“I think for our current governor, if we all just went back to where we were in January of 2020, that would be good enough. But we know it’s not good enough,” she said. “The pandemic has exposed that it’s not good enough.
“I know the stress that this is causing so many families because we did not have the support that we needed before this pandemic. I would veto RTW. I would veto bills that would take away local control, that would dictate how communities can support their own workers and what benefits they can provide their workers, like an increase in the minimum wage. And I would veto bills that would overturn Missouri’s increase in the minimum wage.”