Workers strike on Labor Day in KC to ask for $15 per hour, union - KCTV5 News

Workers strike on Labor Day in KC to ask for $15 per hour, union

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(Stephanie Kayser/KCTV) (Stephanie Kayser/KCTV)
(Stephanie Kayser/KCTV) (Stephanie Kayser/KCTV)

Hundreds of people gathered in Kansas City on Labor Day to send a message about raising the minimum wage and creating a union.

They met at the corner of Southwest Trafficway and 33rd Street.

Many walked out of their jobs to strike because, for these workers, it’s about more than money.

“Life without a union, the past two decades in fast food, my life has been on the steady decline,” said Terrence Wise, who works at McDonald’s. “I do not have access to healthcare benefits”

Wise is a father to three children who has worked in the fast food industry for 20 years. He said increasing the minimum wage to $15 would drastically improve his life.

“Just to be able to have a wage where I can buy them a leotard when they need it or dance shoes for my girls, just to be able to bring that into the home is one big difference I’m looking forward to,” he said.

He’s not alone in that sentiment. Wise is part of Stand Up KC, a labor advocacy group.

“It would mean I wouldn’t have to worry about whether to pay a bill or put food on the table,” said Bill Thompson, who works for Burger King.

“A union would give us a voice at our jobs,” said Fran Marion, who works at Popeyes. “It would help us little people have better healthcare.”

They aren’t only pushing for a pay increase.

Marion wants a union -- someone to have their back. She said it would help workers get healthcare, retirement benefits, and sick days. Basic needs that many don’t have now.

“We deserve 15 and we deserve a union,” said Marion.

The t-shirts on their backs said it all: “We are worth more.”

“We will continue to fight against all odds and we will win,” Wise said.

About 100 people also gathered outside Research Medical Center, marching around it. 

SEIU Healthcare workers are in the middle of contract negotiations. Their union is asking for better pay and better staffing at the hospitals where they work.

“It’s important to us,” said Shirley Caston, GI Tech at Research Medical Center. “We love our patients. We want to give them the best that we have to offer.”

There to support them were members of Stand Up KC.

 “The majority of Kansas Citians are on board for increasing the minimum wage and it’s important for us on this Labor Day to highlight our need for a union as well,” said Wise. “With a union, we’d have a voice on the job, the ability to have collective bargaining and the ability to demand more and win more from our employer.”

“It started as workers coming together, fighting to demand better on the job and we’re here to highlight that today and to stand with union workers who are fighting to maintain what they’ve won,” Wise said.

Kansas City voters approved a minimum wage increase back in August, but a new state law stopped it from going into effect. The law says local government cannot require a wage that's higher than the state's minimum. 

While many supporters were out in KC on Monday, critics of a pay increase say it leads to reduced work hours and layoffs.

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