On Saturday the Climate March for Kansas City took place on the Plaza with a march around the Plaza in the rain and a following rally at Unity Temple. Over a thousand people attended the rally.
Several speakers at the rally addressed climate change.
Terrence Wise: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So I can tell you, uh, I won’t let the weather get me down. It’s easy to wake up and look out the window and see the rain and kind of be down. You know, feel that way. But today I was inspired when I woke up. [voice: “All right.”] I knew I had a, a march to come to, a climate rally is what they want to call it. But I knew I was coming to be a part of a movement. Not a moment, a movement, as this sign right here says. And then I walk in the room and I read the back of your shirt, Manny [Abarca] and I see signs like Our Labor, Our Planet I know I’m in the right place. [cheers, applause] [inaudible]
As Manny stated, my name is Terrence Wise and I’m a McDonald’s worker, a leader in the fight for fifteen. Four years ago I was working two full time jobs in fast food here in Kansas City while my fiancé worked a full time jobs as well as a home health aide. Our family, despite our three incomes, still lost our home here in Kansas City. We found ourselves living out of our purple Dodge minivan. Right out in front of my job, right here close to where we are today. This was the reality for my family. I felt depressed. I was angry. Listen to my three girls, one of whom has asthma, in the back seat of our minivan, sharing a blanket , that was our habitat for the night. No parent should have to go through this. None. To see our belongings piled high in the back of our minivan. Even though I work in the richest nation on Earth, the planet we live on right now, my family has continued to live in poverty. And not only my family, but many families here in Kansas City have endured these conditions.
I’ve worked in fast food for nearly twenty years. But I only make nine dollars an hour as Manny stated. I have no sick days, no vacation, no voice on the job whatsoever, and as a result of these conditions the lives, the conditions, the lives of my children, my fiancé have been on the decline over the years. Not just my family, but workers all across Kansas City have experienced homelessness and struggle to provide the basic necessities for our families. Each month we chose between paying the rent, keeping food on the table, or keeping utilities on. Those are decisions we’re faced to make every day.
I know fast food workers with go with this past winter without working heat, without running water. We work in a two hundred billion dollar industry where companies like McDonald’s make over five billion dollars a year in profits. [voice: “Unbelievable.”] Unbelievable is correct. For CEOs like Steve Easterbrook, the CEO of McDonald’s, is making fourteen million dollars a year, nine thousand dollars an hour, folks. We work hard every day making these companies filthy rich. But our children continue to live in poverty.
The fast food industry wants to perpetuate a myth that I am not a typical fast food worker. They would have the public believe that fast food workers are just teenagers looking for a little extra spending cash. Well, the Washington Post recently reported the average fast food worker is twenty-eight years old. Seventy percent are twenty years or older. And one third of fast food workers are over the age of forty years old. Two thirds of fast food workers are single working mothers. Why should people who work hard every day in the richest nation on Earth wake up and still live in poverty? [applause] Why?
I’ll tell you. Some people might say, and people do ask, they come up, they say, Terrence, why don’t you get a better job? You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, get a better job Terrence. Well, I’m gonna tell you there simply aren’t any other jobs. Low wage jobs like fast food and retail are the fastest growing in America’s economy today. There are sixty-four million Americans who make less than fifteen dollars an hour. It’s why fast food workers like me and my coworkers across Kansas City have been organizing to win a union, have been organizing to win fifteen dollars an hour. [voice: “Yes.”] [applause] That’s the only way to make those bad jobs good jobs. We’re working on it. [applause, cheers]
I just want to let the cat out of the bag. As organizing is a way to make our planet a better planet as well. [cheers, applause] Don’t forget that. Low wage workers in Kansas City and across the country have been organizing for four years now. We’ve gone on strike ten times. We’ve fasted in front of City Hall. We’ve marched and rallied and shared our stories. And spoke out about winning a living wage and a voice on the job. We’ve been in this fight and our allies have been right beside us the whole way. And the labor, faith, and civil rights communities have been on the strike lines with us. And the monsoons like you see today, they’ve been out there with us the hundred degree heat and sometimes in the snow, standing with us.
Our allies in environmental justice community have stood with us as well. The president of the Sierra Club, he stood with fast food workers when we first went on strike. Because he knows when we are united we have the strength to win justice for all. While workers like me live in poverty these billion dollar companies make record profit. But it’s not just the workers that are suffering under these corporate business models. Companies like McDonald’s and WalMart treat our environment no better than they treat their employees. [voice: “All right.”] [applause, cheers]
These same, these same corporations that are leading the global race to the bottom are also engaging in unsustainable practices that harm our planet and waste vital natural resources. McDonald’s, for instance, the second largest employer on the planet, they [inaudible] our environment by clear cutting the rain forest, they do this to keep up with their packaging needs and to grow the palm oil the use to make their famous McDonald’s French fries. They’re clear cutting our rain forests.
On one hand these companies that are fighting to, efforts to decrease [inaudible] and regulate the industry and on the other hand they’re attacking unions and workers across the country. [voice: “Boo.”] And, in a quest for profits above all else the workers and the environment loses. [voice: “That’s right.”] But it’s time we start winning y’all. [voice: “Yeah.”] [cheers, applause] We must unite and fight together as we are today. Because as Dr. King once said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I don’t care [applause] if you’re talking about climate justice, economic justice, racial equality. A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. [applause]
And I can tell you [applause], I can tell you, that line stood out to me because my three girls are like, Daddy, where are you going this morning, a climate march? We, we, march, uh, for fifteen and a union. I was like, no baby, we march for justice. [cheers, applause] Whether it’s climate justice, whether it’s racial justice, whether it’s economic justice. And that’s why we march, baby. [applause, cheers] And that’s why daddy’s going.
‘Cause we must continue to fight together y’all. We must continue to march and rally together to insure that our planet and our community is working for everyone. [voice: “Yeah.”] For real. And we invite you all to come out with us. I can see the flyer in your hand, the yellow one you had, in there, it’s a useful tool. I invite you all to come out with us on Monday, May first for our May Day rally and march. It’ll be at five p.m. at Twelfth and Wyandotte. To fight for the economy that works for us all, ‘cause when we organize and build our strength in numbers y’all we have the power to win climate justice. We have the power to win racial and economic equality as well. But we have to build our strength in numbers. We really do. [applause]
We have a long fight ahead of us. I won’t sugarcoat it, it’s a long fight. We have a long fight ahead of us. I know it won’t be easy. Especially with this administration. For real. And its attacks on working people and science and climate justice, and attacks on Democratic ideals. It will be a long fight. But it’s a fight we need to win. It’s a fight for our future, our country, and our planet. We are stronger together, united we stand y’all.
Thank you for having me. Thank you. [applause, cheers]