Guest Commentary

On this Labor Day, stand with Truman Medical Center workers for everyone’s good

Church leaders gathered during the announcement by the Kansas City Chapter of the NAACP and clergy announcing their opposition to Proposition A on June 7, 2018, at Swope Parkway United Christian Church in Kansas City.
Church leaders gathered during the announcement by the Kansas City Chapter of the NAACP and clergy announcing their opposition to Proposition A on June 7, 2018, at Swope Parkway United Christian Church in Kansas City. 2018 Star file photo

The economic and political systems in this country were not created to work for us all. They were created to serve the wealthy, white men who first wrote our laws and crafted these systems. Right now, our economy and democracy are serving only large corporations and the politicians who take their money and do their bidding.

It’s their system. It’s by them, it’s for them, and it’s working exactly the way they want it to.

But we — women, people of color, immigrants, the LGBT community — are fighting back and demanding a change. And that change starts with a $15 minimum wage and access to unions for everyone.

Workers across the nation are standing up to inhumane working conditions, sexual and verbal harassment in the workplace, and the low wages that force someone to choose between going to the doctor and putting food on the table.

When one person stands up and speaks out, it can make a difference for the individual. But when a group of people comes together, organizes and uses a shared voice, lasting change can be made. When we assemble as a group, organization or union, we have the power to take on the corporations and systems that were created to keep us down.

A union gives workers a seat at the table to fight for higher wages and better working conditions. Unions lift economies and help all working people provide better lives for their families.

But politicians and large corporations only try to limit our access to join a union. Twenty-six states have “right-to-work” laws making it harder for individuals to join a union. But here in Missouri, we’ve stood up to right-to-work time and time again saying, “not in our state.” Most recently, 69% of Missouri voters rejected Proposition A. Right here in Jackson County, 75% of voters rejected this backward law that would hurt our economy and working families.

The people of Jackson County know the value of strong unions. A strong union gives workers a voice on the job. A strong union boosts the economy. A strong union keeps workers and our communities safe.

Now, these values are at stake as hundreds of workers at Truman Medical Center who are organizing for their union are being met with hostility, harassment and retaliation. As lab workers and technicians at Truman are fighting for their place at the table, they are being targeted for speaking out. They are being ignored by management while on the job, and they are constantly in fear of losing their jobs for exercising their federally-protected right to organize a union.

Not only are Truman’s anti-union tactics disappointing — they could also violate federal labor law that protects workers from illegal retaliation. That’s why those lab workers and techs recently filed an unfair labor practice charge against the hospital.

Truman Medical Center is heavily supported by taxpayers in Kansas City and Jackson County through $36.2 million in annual subsidies. These funds flow from voters who strongly opposed efforts to diminish the rights and power of Missouri workers just one year ago.

The management at Truman has the opportunity now to do the right thing by ending retaliation and treating workers with the dignity and respect they deserve. Truman’s management must meet with these workers and agree to a fair and open process to gain their union recognition.

And our Kansas City and Jackson County elected officials need to do everything in their power to support these workers as they organize. The residents of this area made their support of unions loud and clear last year. We need to stand up for all working people in our area, no matter their economic status or job titles.

All people, all workers, deserve an economy and democracy that work for them. That includes the lab workers and techs at Truman Medical Center.

Rodney E. Williams is pastor of the Swope Parkway United Christian Church, president of the Kansas City Chapter of the NAACP, and the tri-chair of the Missouri Poor People’s Campaign.