OPINION: My hope for Missouri workers in 2021

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By REV. DR. TERESA MITHEN DANIELEY
Missouri Jobs with Justice

As we begin another year in the Missouri Legislature and the new Biden/Harris Administration, I maintain hope for Missouri workers and their families. Hope – in the face of an ongoing deadly pandemic and chronic deadly white supremacy – may seem delusional or vapid, unless hope calls us to action. As a Christian and a priest, I ground my hope in my faith in the Way of Jesus.

As theologian Jurgen Moltmann put it in Theology of Hope, “[Faith], whenever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience, but impatience . . . those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it.” Hope must be tied to organized, disciplined action.

$15 MINIMUM, PROTECTING THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE
On the federal level, I hope that President Biden’s campaign promises for a $15 minimum wage and 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers will come to fruition, bringing us closer in line with the standard policies of other economically developed countries.

A revitalized National Labor Relations Board must reinstate the decades of precedence recently overturned by the Trump Administration – strengthening the right of all workers to organize, collectively bargain and file grievances, including gig workers. Congress passing the PRO Act (Protecting the Right to Organize) would be a tremendous step forward for workers.

EXPANDING MEDICAID
Meanwhile in Missouri, we must be vigilant to ensure that the next state budget – which will be introduced shortly and starts July 1, 2021 – fully funds Medicaid Expansion, as approved by the majority of Missouri voters as Amendment 2 on Aug. 4, 2020.

In addition to saving lives during the deadly COVID pandemic, expanding Medicaid will bring billions in economic development to our state. The need for expanding health care could not be more urgent, as Missourians continue to suffer and die, especially Black and Brown Missourians, frontline workers and vulnerable people living in institutions.

FENDING OFF ‘RTW’
Missourians must fend off attempts to introduce so-called “right-to-work,” a racist, anti-worker policy that would harm our state’s economy and Missouri families. As usual, we have to make sure that the minimum wage is applied equally to all eligible workers.

PUBLIC EDUCATION
A new threat this year is Senate Bill 25, which would expand charter schools throughout the state, undermining public education further and enriching lobbyists, politicians, and educators with ties to the Show-Me Institute, the Opportunity Trust, and the City Fund.

LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS
With the narrow passage of Amendment 3 on Nov. 3, 2020, we must make certain that the total population of Missouri is counted for redistricting, rather than allowing more gerrymandering by only counting U.S. citizens and Missourians over the age of 18.

BALLOT INITIATIVES
And we need to protect the citizen ballot Initiative Petition process so that Missourians can continue to propose and implement policies that benefit Missouri’s workers and their families when the Missouri Legislature refuses to do so.

Winning these victories for Missouri workers and their families will be hard. But I maintain hope that – by working together – we will win.

(The Rev. Dr. Teresa Mithen Danieley, an Episcopal priest, serves as the St. Louis Champions Organizer at Missouri Jobs with Justice.)

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