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Low-wage workers in Kansas City aim for power at the polls

Motivated by the Fight for $15 wage campaign for low-wage workers, Michael Hayes, 29, registered as a voter Thursday at the Kansas City election board. Election board worker Joyce Bess assisted his registration.
Motivated by the Fight for $15 wage campaign for low-wage workers, Michael Hayes, 29, registered as a voter Thursday at the Kansas City election board. Election board worker Joyce Bess assisted his registration. stafford@kcstar.com

It’s an election year, and organizations advocating for higher pay for low-wage workers are taking the fight to the ballot box instead of the streets.

The Fight for $15 movement in Kansas City, which has been holding rallies at fast-food restaurants and child care facilities, mobilized Thursday afternoon at the Kansas City election board.

About two dozen low-wage workers, including Michael Hayes, 29, registered to vote for the first time.

“I’d never paid attention too much to politics before,” Hayes said. “But we’ve been fighting for $15 for about two years now and this is our support system. I want to help make a difference.”

At a brief event outside Union Station, several speakers said the power of 64 million low-wage American workers should be a voting force to be reckoned with.

“We can and will show up at the polls,” said the Rev. Rodney Williams of Swope Parkway United Christian Church, who has been supporting the movement. “We are putting what we’re saying into action.”

Speakers said they intend to support candidates who back “proper” immigration reform, address the problems of racism, work for child care reform, don’t pursue “negative health care reform” and endorse the $15-an-hour wage campaign.

La La Manning, a certified nurse assistant who earns between $10 and $12 an hour, was another first-time voter registrant.

“I never voted before, but I felt now was a perfect time to hear our voices,” Manning said. “I feel like I have a reason now.”

Manning said her message to politicians is “Come and get my vote.”

Diane Stafford: 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford

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