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Low-wage workers say Royals haven't earned their votes to build a downtown Kansas City ballpark

Aerial image showing a busy downtown area where a large, glass-walled building (Kansas City Star former location) is central to the image. A highway runs at left and other smaller buildings can be seen at right.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The approximate area where the Royals have proposed building their new stadium.

Low-wage workers and their allies are pushing for a strong community benefits agreement from the Royals as the team pursues a new stadium in the Crossroads neighborhood of downtown Kansas City. So far, they say the Royals don't have their vote.

Low-wage workers and those who are standing by their side are hoping to secure a strong community benefits agreement from the Kansas City Royals as the team pushes for a new downtown stadium.

At the ballot box on April 2nd, Kansas Citians will decide whether to extend a 3/8th-cent sales tax to help fund the Royals new ballpark and renovations to Arrowhead Stadium. Workers — who have set a March 19th deadline to come to an agreement — say the team has not done nearly enough to earn their vote.

"Our coalition has marked a line in the sand," Terrence Wise, a low-wage worker and activist with Stand Up KC and the Missouri Workers Center.

"We've given the Royals until March 19th to have something signed, ready and enforceable for folks to be able to go out and say 'I support this on April 2nd.' They've had over a year to come up with something. The ball is in John Sherman's court."

Laura Dresser, a labor economist at the University of Wisconsin, recently co-authored a report about what a robust community benefits agreement can do for a community. She told KCUR that the Royals could learn a lesson from the community benefits agreement the Milwaukee Bucks signed when that NBA franchise built its new stadium.

"Instead of resisting a union, (the benefits agreement) really said 'labor peace.' Like, if the worker's want a union, (the Milwaukee Bucks) are ready to negotiate with that union," Dresser said.

"So, that makes an enormous difference because that allows for a dynamic representation and development of the worker voice in the workplace."

Dresser told KCUR the Bucks' community benefits agreement also implemented labor standards from the beginning, requiring the minimum wage to be $15 an hour back in 2016.

  • Laura Dresser, PhD, labor economist, associate director of the High Road Strategy Center, clinical associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Terrence Wise, activist with Stand Up KC and the Missouri Workers Center
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