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MO Workers Group Launches to Bridge Racial, Geographic Divides

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Wednesday, November 17, 2021   

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A new group aims to bridge racial and geographic divides between Missouri workers, to help bring economic prosperity to everyone.

The newly launched Missouri Workers Center has said it's pushing back against stereotypes and myths that can divide workers who share common interests.

The group was joined at its first event by Heather McGhee, author of "The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together." She said there is, in her words, "a lie" that prosperity for some has to come at the expense of others. McGhee said it's being used to pit groups against each other - so, fighting for fair working conditions and combating racism go hand in hand.

"Forty percent of American workers are paid too little to meet their basic needs for things like housing and food," she said. "One percent of the population owns more wealth than the entire middle class."

Missouri's minimum wage is $10.30 an hour, after voters in 2018 approved a ballot initiative increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2023. It previously was $7.85. The Missouri Workers Center has said it will advocate for such policies as paid leave and better working conditions.

Terrence Wise, a leader with the Missouri Workers Center who works at a McDonald's location in Kansas City, said prior to his introduction to organizing for a better wage, his workplace was segregated by the misperceptions that if Black workers are thriving, white workers are losing - or if immigrant workers are thriving, U.S.-born workers must be missing out.

"Not realizing that the time that we didn't sign each other's paychecks, we didn't write policy and legislation that dictate how our everyday lives were," he said. "All that was above us - the corporations, the elected leaders."

Wise added that it was important to realize that workers have to come together to demand change. In his own career, he said it's made the difference of earning $16 an hour instead of less than $8. Wise said campaigns such as "Fight for 15 and a Union" are making similar progress across the nation.


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