The Labor Beacon hosts union-focused city council candidate forum May 13

The publication, now in its seventh decade, enters a new era with a focus on reinvention and rededication.
Screenshot 2023 05 10 At 52224 Pm

Courtesy image

The Labor Beacon, a storied union newspaper now in its 70th year of publication, is looking to try something a little different as it prepares to host its first KCMO City Council Candidate Forum at IBEW Local 124‘s Hall on Saturday, May 13, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The event will open with comments from Mayor Quinton Lucaswho is campaigning for re-election in 2023—as he welcomes an extensive list of candidates for the city council.

Editor Tristin Amezcua-Hogan and Publisher Abril Negrete will join Carson Pope, a Western MO Political Organizer with the AFL-CIO, in moderating the discussion.

“The unique angle here is that we’ve tried to promote it primarily to union members, leaders, and organizers. And we’ve communicated that same notion to the candidates who are showing up—that we’re going to talk about the union issues of the day,” Amezcua-Hogan says. “I think it’s significant that all these council candidates, and politicians in general, understand that The Labor Beacon is a consistent paper that communicates to an important voting bloc.”

The Labor Beacon was established in 1953 by Meyer Goldman, who had already carved out his own notable influence within the local labor movement due in part to Kansas City’s active and heavily unionized textile trades.

Currently seeking re-election to his second term representing the city’s 1st District At-Large, Kevin O’Neill had served as Goldman’s editorial successor at The Labor Beacon up until the start of 2023 after making a move to purchase the paper in 1992. 


Courtesy image

Over the course of 30 years at the helm, Amezcua-Hogan says O’Neill was instrumental in modernizing the publication while broadening its coverage and reach without losing its original working spirit.

“He took this dying newspaper and brought it back to life,” Amezcua-Hogan says of O’Neill’s tenure. “He brought in this old-school sort of Irishness that really made the paper feel working-class and really made it feel true to the values of so many of our members. I think that not only have unions learned from him, but he’s also really learned from his times out in the field, talking to working-class people in a way that you can’t really match as far as a political education goes.”

Amezcua-Hogan, in turn, took over as The Labor Beacon’s newest editor early this year following the publication’s sale from Kevin and Gaye O’Neill to the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO on January 1. The son of a member of UA Local 669, grandchild of union USPS workers, and nephew of longtime United Rubber Workers leader George Amis, Amezcua-Hogan now assumes the responsibility of continuing the legacy of this now bi-monthly publication that has become commonplace just south of 30,000 union households per issue. 

Negrete is the newest addition to The Labor Beacon’s leadership, having signed on as publisher this year after spending seven years as a union representative and organizer on campaigns “predominantly targeting contractors who were exploiting women and workers of color in the Kansas City metro and, more recently, in the Deep South.”

“As a Mexican immigrant myself, and having worked in a predominantly male field, my staff unions have afforded me, time and again, equal pay with the men I’m in the trenches with and the protections to feel safe at work. I want more women and immigrants to know there is a larger piece of the pie for them to take, and unions can make it happen,” Negrete says.

In guiding the publication towards more a inclusive role in the community, Amezcua-Hogan and Negrete hope to accurately represent the reality of the increasingly multi-cultural, multi-generational, politically-diverse coalition that makes up the greater union spaces.

“We are about as big as the paper has ever been,” Amezcua-Hogan says. “I think that just staying around and just being consistently roughly the same for seven decades has been really good for us in that regard because for a lot of our members—and even for many of their family members—when they get their copy, it’s their political guiding piece. It will tell them about the next job that’s coming up in town and who’s organizing, keeping them updated on National Labor Relations issues. Local politics, national politics, you name it. It’s really significant, too, because we’ve been able to navigate away from a lot of that traditional partisanship you see. We really are just for whoever’s being pro-union, pro-worker.”

What questions can folks expect to be asked of the candidates? 

While some popular talking points, such as the ongoing saga of the new downtown baseball stadium, will always be of interest and almost inevitably be mentioned at some point, Amezcua-Hogan plans for universal working-class topics to legitimately take center stage.

“It’s always obviously a delicate balance to make sure that the city is consistently moving forward as far as making sure that there are better rules for fairness in construction, making sure that there’s continued expansion of things like prevailing wage,” Amezcua-Hogan says. “It’s also about making sure the politicians we elect understand what it means to pay workers the prevailing wage and that workers who are actually trained to do their job—and this sounds nuts—actually get access to basic things like health care and pensions.”

On the other side of things, “you may also have city council members who are more involved in some ways, and more aware of things that have happened in town, like when union-busting occurs or when a job site goes bad,” Amezcua-Hogan says. “So, I think this will be an educational opportunity for council members just as much as it’s an opportunity for us to hear from them.”

If all goes well, this could be the very beginning of a new era for the septuagenarian publication. 

“This is the sort of event The Labor Beacon wants to be involved in for the long term. The paper has worked really hard to build trust as a reliable source of news for tens of thousands of residents in both Kansas and Missouri, and we really want to harness that trust and that platform for good,” Amezcua-Hogan says. “This candidate forum is supposed to be an example for us. It’s kind of our test trial into seeing how we can add to the civic fiber of our region.”

Guests can RSVP and find more information here leading up to the day of the event.

Categories: Politics