Stand with working people on Labor Day

To the editor:.

When I think about Labor Day, I think about my father coming home after a long day at his union job as a carpenter. He built so many things for so many people, but most importantly, he built a life and a future for his family. I learned from his example that unions provide the foundation for a good sustainable life with good wages, better benefits, and the thought of a brighter future.

I take the lesson with me today working in a school as a building mechanic. I’ve worked in Kansas City Public Schools for more than 20 years, the last five years as a building mechanic at Gladstone Elementary School. Building mechanics repair equipment, maintain heating and cooling systems and fix anything that breaks.

At KCPS, the custodians, students, teachers, and building staff are a community. When kids need school supplies, we pay out of our own pockets to buy them. When Gladstone got a new sign out front, I went to the store to buy containers to hold the letters for it. The KCPS staff doesn’t just think about doing something for our students. We do it.

Being in a union gives me and my coworkers the voice on the job we need to make KCPS better for everyone. When working people are financially stable, we can give even more to our jobs. Financial security also reduces turnover, which helps schools retain trusted employees who students and teachers know.

Research from the Center for American Progress shows that shrinking wages for the middle class are directly tied to the decline in union membership. People are working harder than ever before, but the cost of living is going up while wages aren’t keeping up.

It’s time to raise wages, and unions are the key to doing it. That’s why fast food workers across the country are coming together for $15 and union rights. Working people across Missouri are fighting to raise Missouri’s minimum wage to $12, because every family deserves the opportunity to make ends meet without having to rely on food stamps.

This Labor Day, stand with working families by supporting your local unions. Support those who are fighting to join a union. Stand with us as we fight to raise Missouri’s minimum wage. Because working people coming together is the key to making this economy work for all of us, not just the wealthy and well-connected.

Debbie Dougherty

SEIU Local 1 Building Mechanic at Kansas City Public Schools