Starbucks workers claim victory in Overland Park union vote, first in Kansas City area

Starbucks workers at 75th Street in Overland Park held a vote Friday afternoon to unionize, citing better working conditions and health care benefits

by Jacob Martin, KCUR and Kansas News Service


Starbucks workers in Overland Park appear to have successfully voted to form the company’s first union in the Kansas City area.

Workers at the café on West 75th Street gathered Friday afternoon as the tally was read live from a National Labor Relations Board office.

The vote came back 6-1 in favor of the union. Seven other ballots remain challenged, but union organizers say those ballots include three pro-union workers who allege wrongful firing. There is currently no timeline for when those ballots might be verified.

Hannah Edwards, a supervisor at the Overland Park location, said the contested votes should not affect the outcome.

“We’re not sure how long the lawyers will take to hash out those seven other ballots but we are confident that those are not all “no’s,” Edwards said.

Staff have been on strike since Wednesday alleging that management has intensified their union-busting efforts.

Efforts to unionize the Starbucks location have been ongoing since January. Last month, baristas organized a walkout effectively closing the cafe for a day, and following the termination of three employees at the location.

Emma Baldrige, a barista at the Overland Park store, said they are relieved by the outcome.

“We’ve been struggling for months with this and it makes all of the challenges that we face through this entire process worth it.”

The 75th Street location was among four Starbucks cafes that were counting union votes on Friday. In particular, the Overland Park workers are demanding better working conditions and health care benefits.

“This has been discussed multiple times with our management and upper management on the district level and no solutions have really came up,” shift supervisor Hannah McCown told KCUR.

Three other Kansas City-area Starbucks are also seeking to unionize. Workers at the cafes in Country Club Plaza, 39th street in Independence, and 41st and Main in Midtown have signed union authentication cards, seeking to align with the collective Workers United.

The union push came in the wake of a successful effort by Workers United to organize workers at a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, late last year. Since then, over 200 Starbucks locations have filed to unionize, according to NPR, and 13 already voted in favor.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.
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See more at https://www.kcur.org/news/2022-04-08/starbucks-workers-claim-victory-in-overland-park-union-vote-first-in-kansas-city-area

Legislative auditors skeptical Prairiefire development can pay off $64.8M in bond debt

STAR bond success: $150M MLS stadium debt retired in less than seven years

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — The Overland Park retail, office, hotel and residential development attached to the Prairiefire museum struggles to attract out-of-state tourists and could default on $64.8 million in bond debt issued through a state economic development program under scrutiny by the Legislature.

Auditors with the Legislature said their analysis of the PrairieFire project built with capital raised through issuance in 2012 of Sales Tax Revenue Bonds, or STAR bonds, indicated the project wasn’t generating enough sales tax revenue to repay debts in the required 20-year period. Originally, $64.9 million in bonds were issued for the project. Debt remaining to be paid: $64.8 million.

Auditors predicted it could take until 2046 or 2104 to produce sufficient sales tax revenue to retire the PrairieFire obligations held by the city of Overland Park.

“They are in danger of default,” said Andy Brienzo, of the Legislature’s audit division. “We can’t say that definitively. There is some additional development that is slated to happen.”

Bob North, general counsel with the Kansas Department of Commerce, said he didn’t share skepticism of auditors but also couldn’t guarantee success of Prairiefire, which includes a museum for traveling natural history exhibits. The commerce department has approved 19 STAR bond projects since the 1990s for Atchison, Garden City, Salina, Wichita, Topeka, Goddard, Manhattan and other cities.

He said museums, racetracks, sports facilities and other venues build with of $1.1 billion in bond proceeds were intended to raise the quality of life for benefit of Kansans and to attract tourists to the state. He said the objective of STAR bonds wasn’t simply generation of tax revenue.

“If they were, we’d take our money and build a bunch of Walmarts,” North said. “The goal of STAR bonds is to create attractions that are going to bring visitors to the state.”

The House and Senate commerce committees this week invited the Kansas Division of Legislative Post Audit to outline findings of a 2021 audit of STAR bond initiatives. Auditors discovered only three projects outside of the mega-development at Village West in Wyandotte County that fulfilled the objective of elevating tourism.

“STAR bonds are a very, very effective and strong economic development tool,” North said. “They’ve worked well in most instances. I’m not going to tell you every project is perfect.”

Rep. Kristey Williams, an Augusta Republican, said she was disappointed with the quality of information submitted to the state by STAR bond recipients.

“As we look at the annual reports that were submitted to the Department of Commerce,” she said, “some of it doesn’t give real data. It might say visitation went up 30%. Well, 30% from what number?”

Sen. Jeff Pittman, D-Leavenworth, said the assessment of STAR bonds by legislative auditors was “a particularly narrow evaluation.” It was based on estimates of out-of-state visitors and documentation of sales tax revenue but didn’t take into account other evidence of economic development such as the multiplier effect of those new businesses, he said.

“I have some issues with some of this,” Pittman said.

The latest STAR bond annual report submitted to the Legislature by the Department of Commerce pointed to success of Children’s Mercy Park where the Sporting Kansas City professional soccer team plays. It’s become one of the state’s top tourist destinations.

To build the MLS soccer complex, $150 million in STAR bonds were issued in 2010. That debt was paid off in less than seven years.

Jake Reid, president and chief executive officer of Sporting Kansas City, said the franchise derived significant benefit from the STAR bond law and the private-public partnership with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and the state of Kansas.

“We’re the second-smallest market in our league, yet we often times consistently punch above our weight class in terms of on-field results as well as the business results,” Reid said. “On average, we drive over 600,000 per year through Children’s Mercy Park.”

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/01/22/legislative-auditors-skeptical-prairiefire-development-can-pay-off-64-8m-in-bond-debt/

Dennis Moore, former Congressman, remembered

Congressman Dennis Moore

State officials have released statements after hearing of the death of former Congressman Dennis Moore, D-3rd Dist.

Moore, 75, died Nov. 2 in Overland Park, Kansas. He served in office from 1999 through 2011.

A native of Anthony, Kansas, Moore received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas, and a juris doctor degree from Washburn University School of Law. He served as assistant Kansas attorney general, and he also served as Johnson County district attorney from 1977 to 1989.

Gov. Laura Kelly has ordered flags in Kansas to fly at half-staff from sunup Nov. 3 to sundown Nov. 7 in memory of Congressman Moore.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Congressman Dennis Moore today,” Gov. Kelly said. “Congressman Moore was a fierce and tenacious advocate for children, first as Johnson County District Attorney and then as a Member of Congress. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Amber Alert system, in Kansas and nationwide.

“A veteran himself, Moore is also remembered for his commitment to our Armed Forces. Following the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Moore led the effort to raise death gratuity benefits from $12,000 to $100,000 for the families of fallen service members.

“Beyond his policy contributions, Congressman Moore will be remembered by all who knew him as a kind, pragmatic, common-sense leader who cared deeply about the people he represented. My thoughts are with his wife Stephene, their children and grandchildren,” Gov. Kelly said.

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-3rd Dist., also released a statement:

“I am very saddened to hear of the passing of Dennis Moore, and my heart goes out to Stephene and his family. Dennis was a dedicated, gracious, and principled leader who will be remembered for his service to the 3rd District and the state of Kansas. To say he left big shoes to fill is an understatement—he leaves a legacy of fighting tirelessly for what is good and right and decent for the people he represented.

“As we mourn his loss, I’m reminded of the first time I met the Moores in person. I brought with me the pocket U.S. Constitution that I had carried with me all through law school—a pocket Constitution with an official label from the Office of Congressman Dennis Moore. After a good laugh about how on Earth I had managed to hold on to it all those years, he offered to sign my copy and gave me advice on my campaign. For his humor, his thoughtfulness, his dedication to public service (and his guitar playing skills): he will be missed.”

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, this afternoon spoke on the U.S. Senate floor in memory of former Congressman Dennis Moore. To see his video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LJFs0k9PZs.

Sen. Moran’s office also issued a statement:

“Congressman Dennis Moore, above all, was a kind man. He was a doting father and grandfather, and I am very saddened to learn of his passing. He served six terms on behalf of Kansans, and in our many years of working together I always had the upmost respect for him and the way he served the people of the 3rd District.

“That respect only grew when I witnessed the way he and his wife, Stephene, faced his battle with Alzheimer’s with a determination to use their experience to help others. One area where we always agreed was the need to invest in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, and in 2014, Dennis shared his experience with this devastating disease in front of my Senate subcommittee. His legacy will be the way in which he gave others battling Alzheimer’s courage and hope.

“Robba and I extend our heartfelt condolences to Stephene and their family.”

Kansas House Democratic Leader Tom Sawyer issued a statement:

“I am saddened to hear of Congressman Dennis Moore’s passing. His work in local, state, and national politics continues to influence the work we do today. As president of the Blue Dog Coalition in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Moore was at the forefront of change. I’m grateful for his tireless work in Kansas and in Washington. I send my condolences to his family and friends.”