I moved to Richmond my hometown of Farmville, Virginia when I was nineteen because there no jobs there. Growing up, I watched my parents work around the clock as they struggled to support my brother and me. I started working when I was fifteen at the McDonald’s in Farmville the second I was old enough. That’s why I’ve been knocking doors in support of the resort casino in Southside and the jobs that it will bring.
Southside is hurting. I hear it about it all the time from friends and neighbors. Inflation is making everything so expensive, and we just don’t have enough jobs that are actually in our community. The jobs we do have don’t pay well enough or have good benefits.
The resort casino could change all of that.
I’ve been a food service worker at Virginia Commonwealth University for more than sixteen years. Me and my co-workers spent most of that time talking about how we needed a union. Last year, we fought for and won that union together. Now, I see a future where I can better provide for my four children, where I can retire one day and my kids can have a better life than me.
Workers at Richmond Grand will have a fair pathway to decide on unionization. That means the opportunity to have what we won at VCU, or what my brothers and sisters in Maryland have won at MGM National Harbor. At MGM, the non-tipped minimum wage will go up to $24.50 an on November 1st, the employer pays 99% of healthcare costs, and union members have a pension and legal service plan.
On the construction side, workers can make up to $35 an hour with good benefits in healthcare and retirement. Between the construction union agreement and the organizing agreement on the hospitality side, unions will be part of every phase of this project.
I think Richmond workers, especially Black workers, deserve a shot at those union standards. And for everyone worried about promises of good jobs not being fulfilled, I know firsthand that the best chance workers have of getting the wages and benefits we deserve is through a union.
The company can’t promise us what our wages and benefits will be right now, because if workers at Richmond Grand want the union, they’ll be the ones to make those decisions. That’s why this isn’t just about jobs, it’s about building power for our community and for Richmond workers.
There’s a lot of people of color without jobs or opportunities in Richmond. We really don’t have first dibs at the best opportunities. I need that to change. Not just for me and for my neighbors, but for my kids. I want them to have a better future, and that means having access to good jobs. We have an opportunity to build that for ourselves and our kids with this project. I hope we recognize what’s in front of us and pass it on November 7th.