If you are sick of not knowing the future of the Kansas City Royals and the Kansas City Chiefs, you are not alone. Tensions behind the scenes have escalated in recent weeks as rumors and political infighting have increased both in the public eye and behind the scenes, prompting the Greater Kansas City Building and Construction Trades Council to send a stern letter to all Jackson County elected officials urging cooperation and prompt action.

    The Greater Kansas City Building and Construction Trades Council represents tens of thousands of union voters who either directly live in Jackson County or who work in the County.

The organization is one of the biggest power players in politics in the region, advocating for the needs of union members in the construction industry and fighting for common sense issues that benefit workers of all kinds. The organization has rarely been put into a position where they felt they needed to issue warnings of this kind.

    The Labor Beacon reached out to every elected official at Jackson County, providing them with multiple days to comment on the letter for this story. Jackson County Executive Frank White, Legislator Donna Peyton, Legislator Charlie Franklin, Legislator Jeanie Lauer, Legislator DaRon McGee and Legislator Megan Marshall did not respond to our request with a comment. Almost every member of the Jackson County Legislature and Jackson County Executive Frank White has received union support in the past.

“I am excited and encouraged that we can get a “better deal” for working families in front of Jackson Countians by an April 2023 timeline. It only requires us to work together to buckle down and get this done. We MUST keep both teams in Jackson County to ensure our County’s wage rates have the greatest potential to uplift our local workforce!” said Legislator Manny Abarca.

Abarca has been one of the most vocal members of the Jackson County Legislature in his support for a renewal of the sales tax to keep both teams. Abarca also hosted a town hall centered around this issue on December 12th. Abarca has publicly warned that the Chiefs and the Royals could find a future home outside of Jackson County, potentially as far as Nashville, TN, if Jackson County is unable to renew the current 3/8ths of a cent sales tax that goes towards the stadiums.

“I am delighted that the Chiefs and the Royals are both asking the voters to renew the existing 3/8th cent sales tax. That is simple math, nothing will change for the voters. In addition, they agree with supporting a strong commitment to a community benefits agreement. That’s a win-win!” said Legislator Venessa Huskey.

“I agree with Mr. Oropeza’s sentiments. I want a fair deal with the Royals and Chiefs. I will continue supporting negotiations between the county executive and the teams. The opportunity for more good-paying union jobs is something we must accomplish with any deal for the new stadiums. I am confident we can and will reach an agreement while protecting the fiscal future of the county and continuing our long-lasting relationship with the teams,” said Legislator Jalen Anderson.

“I am encouraged by the Teams desire to engage with the community to better understand our concerns and to better articulate the vision for the future. The Royals and Chiefs represent two of the most unifying & energizing institutions in our community. We look forward to a plan for the future that will balance the desire of constituents (including the Teams) with the fiscal well-being of the County & our citizens,” said Legislator Sean Smith. “Recent discussions reflect that we are making good progress and I’m confident that the partnership that Jackson County has had with the Teams for decades will be strengthened through cooperation without the need for coercion.”

Following the release of this letter to the Jackson County Legislators and Executive, KCUR’s Savannah Hawley provided some excellent coverage. In that coverage, Legislator Megan Marshall provided some dismissive commentary on the union’s letter, calling it a “distraction.” Marshall was previously supported by area unions after defeating a union-friendly- incumbent in her race.

“I’m not interested in contributing to the volumes of empty rhetoric already provided by those not at the negotiation table,” Marshall said. “Our job as legislators is to present the best deal for the taxpayers. The Legislature is not tasked with negotiating a deal. I intend to do my job. I have no interest in being sidetracked by just another opinion from those who do not contribute directly to or control the outcome of the matter at hand.”

    “If we’re working to get you elected, then we would like for you to help us to maintain a high standard of living, whether it be future projects or keeping the prevailing wage ordinances,” Business Manager Oropeza said to KCUR in the interview. “It’s not a secret that labor wants labor-friendly candidates so that they could help us.”

Oropeza also added in the interview: “Any union job loss is a concern of mine, but the potential for what we have in two stadiums are thousands of man hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the membership of these local unions here… So if that goes out the window then we’re looking for people having to travel and go elsewhere to find those kinds of jobs.”

Timeline Problems

The time frame to get the ballot question that provides funding to the stadiums for both the Royals and the Chiefs is very tight. Jackson County insiders have suggested that negotiations and a vote to put language on a ballot would have to be completed by late January at the very latest to get the ballot question before voters by April. An April vote would allow time for Missouri Governor Mike Parson to provide state support to the projects, if possible and desirable.

The problem with such a tight time frame is that it provides very little time for a campaign to convince the public. The last time the funding question came before voters was 2006, when voters only approved the measure on a 53% yes to 47% no vote. This time around the conversation has been understandably much more tense. Many voters have a sentimental attachment to the Truman Sports Complex.

    At this stage in the timeline, Jackson County should be finished with negotiations and unified publicly in an active campaign to sell the voters of Jackson County on keeping the teams. Instead, the public and union members are watching government disfunction potentially result in the loss of both teams.

If politicians are going to rely on organized labor to get elected, they need to understand that on the rare occasion that we ask for something that keeps our members working, they need to back us up.