KC Voices: A labor leader uses Labor Day to celebrate KC as a union town

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In the KC Voices column, we ask members of the KC community to submit stories about their thoughts and experiences in all walks of life. If you’ve got a story you’d like to share with our readers, please send it to brock@thepitchkc.com for consideration. Today for Labor Day, Duke Dujakovich of the Great Kansas City AFL-CIO weighs in on KC’s history—and future—as a union town.

KC Voices local submissions

Illustration by Jack Raybuck

KC Voices local submissions

Today, a record-breaking 88% of people under 30 view unions favorably and 71% of all Americans support unions, including a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. This unprecedented level of support reflects a clear message: working people are desperate to take back their power.

Kansas City is a union town, but even then, for many the idea of actually being in a union is sadly abstract and removed. Many view unions positively, and with good reason, but have no close experience because the bosses have fought tooth and nail to whittle away the power of the working-class. They know that we are strongest together and they fear what an organized working class could accomplish.

So what is a union? A union is whatever you and your coworkers want it to be. Unions are teams of individuals coming together to guarantee the things you care about in the workplace like decent wages, affordable health care, job security, safe and respectful workplaces, and fair scheduling. Union members have better wages, are more likely to have pensions and health care, are safer at work, and can fight for better workplaces without fear of retaliation from the boss.

I am here to tell you that the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO, and the tens of thousands of union members in our region, are here to back you up. We are here to stand in solidarity with you when you organize your workplace, we are here to stand beside you on the picket line, and we are here to help you fight for what you deserve.

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#FlashbackFriday to this UAW International Union Labor Day poster.

If you are a worker without a union, regardless of the industry you are in, you can organize your workplace. Unions brought you the weekend, the 40-hour work week, and so much more.

If you don’t want to stay where you are and you’re looking for a new life-changing career path, there are dozens of unions that you can join today. Many of these unions will give you day-one health insurance, great wages, and even pay you to go to school.

In 2026, Kansas City will host the World Cup and the eyes of every nation will be on us. Visitors from across the globe will come to our wonderful city for food, drinks, and entertainment. If you are a worker at a local brewery or distillery, you deserve a union. If you are in the service industry, you deserve a union. If you are a hotel worker, you deserve a union. This city could not host the World Cup without you. If you don’t believe that you need a union or think that you have a fair shake, call a union bartender or hotel worker in Vegas and find out how much they make—I promise it can be better, and yes, you can keep your tips.

If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because the bosses have convinced workers that they have to settle for less than they are worth, all while they buy new houses and cars. While you’re struggling to pay rent, they are on their third vacation. Radical imagination and unionizing will create a Kansas City for everyone.

It is past time we hold the bosses accountable and build an America that works for everyone. There is nothing better than finding the best version of yourself by joining together with your fellow worker and taking back the power you deserve. The best time to join a union was yesterday, and the next best time is today.

Call us at (816) 221-6163. Happy Labor Day!

Categories: Politics