OPINION: We can do better for our servicemen and women after they get home

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One St. Louis with a $15 minimum and good union jobs would be a start

By JAMES EARL MOODY

I’ve been working for as long as I have been able to, and I don’t plan to stop any time soon.

I started work at eight-years old, delivering the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a paperboy. Later, I served in the United States Air Force in Strategic Air Command in South Dakota, the agency in charge of our missile defense systems. From South Dakota, the Air Force sent me to Thailand for a year during the Vietnam War. Since then, I’ve come home and tried to make ends meet.

Now at 67, after six years as a janitor, I plan to work as long as I can. On my wage, I don’t expect to retire, just to save enough to make sure my children and grandchildren have savings they can rely on. Higher pay would mean I could put something aside for a rainy day, provide more for my grandkids, have an easier time paying the bills and consider retiring someday.

MEANINGFUL JOBS AND OPPORTUNITIES
On Veterans Day, as we honor those who served our country, we need to remember to work harder on behalf of those who came home.

Many of my fellow veterans came back and struggled, both psychologically and economically. After the parades and the accolades are over, we must make sure we care for veterans. Part of that care means ensuring veterans who are able to work have the meaningful jobs and opportunities we need to support our families.

What’s a meaningful job? One that pays at least $15-an-hour, the minimum a family of four needs to live above the poverty line. One where we can come together in a union for benefits and respect.

But five years after the Ferguson protests, despite all the promises of big change, North County communities like mine are still struggling with a lack of good-paying, meaningful jobs. A lot of good union work went overseas that needs to come back. But we also need to make sure the jobs that are available, like janitorial jobs, are good and meaningful ones, with a union and at least a $15-an-hour wage.

ONE ST. LOUIS
We have the ability and opportunity to create meaningful jobs for the working people of the St. Louis region. That’s why janitors and allies like the St. Louis Labor Council are fighting for One St. Louis, a region united across racial lines where every working family can make ends meet with at least $15 and good union jobs. And while that starts with a strong contract for 2,100 janitors, we will keep up the fight until graduate workers, fast food workers, hospital workers and more have the ability to support their families too.

In order to win a good new contract and $15 for working families, we need the support from every union member across St. Louis City and County. Today it’s janitors, but tomorrow it could be teachers, or construction workers, or any one of us. When we stand together as one, for one unified region across different backgrounds, we can hold wealthy special interests accountable. We did it when we voted against overwhelmingly against Prop A (“right-to-work”), and when we voted to raise Missouri’s minimum wage. If we come together, we can win again.

WE CAN DO BETTER
This Veterans Day take it from a fellow union member and a veteran, we can do better for our servicemen and women after they get home. We shouldn’t have to struggle to make ends meet just to get by. At least $15, good jobs and strong union contracts would go a long way towards making the St. Louis region more equal across racial lines, helping all of us support ourselves, care for our families and live with stability in our later years.

(James Earl Moody works as a janitor. He lives in Florissant, Mo.)

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