By FRANCES HOLMES
Show-Me $15 activist
I know firsthand the difference between working in a union job and a non-union job. I cleaned office buildings for 11 years under a union contract. I was an outspoken union member who made sure that my rights were respected. When I began working at McDonald’s, nothing about my personality changed, and I still stood up for myself and my coworkers.
The difference was that I didn’t have an organization and a procedure to follow in order to make sure my job was secure and I was able to voice my needs. What was even more heartbreaking was my co-workers who had never been in a union didn’t understand that you don’t have to let your boss beat you down. You don’t have to expect disrespect from managers and indifference from the corporate world.
Because of my experience as a union member, I knew the true value of the work I performed. I knew that as an employee I have certain rights and that my coworkers have my back when it comes to any injustice on the job.
DECLINING UNION MEMBERSHIP,
INCREASING INCOME INEQUALITY
Union membership hit an all-time low in 2016 with just 10.7 percent of the workforce belonging to a union according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I think dwindling union membership played a key role in the increase of income inequality in my community of St. Louis.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union workers receive better wages, benefits, and working conditions than non-union workers.
WINNING, THEN LOSING
A HIGHER WAGE
Because of the work of thousands of brave low-wage workers in St. Louis, we put enough pressure on our local lawmakers to raise the minimum wage in our city. Unfortunately, the greed and fear of corporations and corrupt politicians cost up to 35,000 working families the raise they deserve when Jefferson City politicians passed preemption legislation rolling back St. Louis’ $10/hour minimum wage and blocking a similar voter-approved increase in Kansas City.
We won on a local level, but we must acknowledge that without unions, those who lose out in the rigged economy will continue to disproportionately be workers of color. Across the country, more than half of black workers and nearly 60 percent of Latino workers are paid less than $15 per hour.
Unless workers in every region of the country can win unions, crooked politicians and corporations will continue to rig the system and workers will lose.
MAKING OUR VOICES HEARD
And so this Labor Day, workers in the Fight for $15 are joining community leaders and allies in a nationwide uprising to confront the politicians and corporations who have rigged the system against workers and put the demand for unions at the center of the national conversation.
Local community leaders and allies will unite with non-union workers in health care, fast food, higher education, airports, and other service industries, as well as those leading the fights against racism and to protect immigrants, the environment, and health care.
Our voices will rise above the scare tactics and nonsense that our opponents have successfully drowned us out with. The lies and fear end on Labor Day, and workers and their families will win.
Show-Me $15 plans Labor Day action in St. Louis
Show-Me $15, the St. Louis chapter of the Fight for $15 movement, is planning a Labor Day action and activities in St. Louis.
Fight for $15 is organizing 300 protests all across the country.
In St. Louis, Show-Me $15 activists and United We Stand St. Louis are planning a series of actions:
• 6 a.m. – Fight for $15 protest at McDonald's at 1119 N Tucker.
• 7 a.m. – March to 19th and Olive streets.
• 8 a.m. – Rally at 19th and Olive streets with at performance on the racist history of “right-to-work” and MLK by Bread and Roses Missouri.
• 9 a.m. – Workers will march in the Greater St. Louis Labor Council’s Labor Day Parade.