Not long after moving to Topeka, Kansas, in the early 1980s, community organizer Curtis Pitts learned about a hidden slice of that city’s history that would come to shape his life’s work over the next four decades. He was introduced to the Kansas Technical Institute, or KTI, a Black vocational college that had prospered throughout the early twentieth century, only to close in the mid-1950s. Founded in 1895, KTI enjoyed the distinction of being the second Black college established west of the Mississippi. Built in part by its own students, the school became a self-sustaining campus, training them in agriculture, nursing, printing, tailoring, and theology, among other subjects.
As the police raided Marion County Record editor and publisher Eric Meyer’s home August 11 (Committee to Protect Journalists, 8/12/23; AP, 8/13/23; New York Times, 8/13/23), his 98-year-old mother was aghast, watching the cops rummage through her things. “She was very upset, yelling about ‘Gestapo tactics’ and ‘where are all the good people?’” Meyer told FAIR. He said that after the raid she “was beside herself, she wouldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep and finally went to bed about sunrise.” Meyer’s mother, a co-owner of the paper, eventually told her son that the whole affair was “going to be the death of me.”
A newswoman since 1953 and co-owner of the local paper in her hometown in central Kansas, she lived to see her Marion County Record, as well as her home, raided by police on Friday, for reasons that defied both law and logic. It is not hyperbole to say that this attack on the people’s right to know appears to have killed her. On Friday, police showed up looking for evidence that a reporter had run an improper computer search to confirm an accurate report that a local business owner applying for a liquor license had lost her driver’s license over a DUI. According to coverage of this story on the Record’s website, the reporter “made no attempt to conceal her identity, providing her name.”
Through wet weather in Wichita, Kansas, and scorching heat in Austin, Texas, hundreds of nurses walked picket lines June 27 in a one-day strike for safe staffing and patient safety. Nearly 2,000 nurses represented by National Nurses United (NNU) walked out. They’re trying to get the company to bargain in good faith after winning union elections in the last year at the three struck locations: Ascension’s two campuses in Wichita and Austin’s huge Ascension Seton Medical Center, where 900 nurses work. “Our patients are being shortchanged by management, because they are short staffing our units,” said Monica Gonzalez, a medical-surgical nurse and 19-year veteran of ASMC.
Six thousand Machinists working for Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, ratified a new four-year contract last week, returning to work today. The company had locked workers out on June 22, two days before their strike. Machinists (IAM) Local Lodge 839 accepted the latest offer on June 28 by 63 percent, compared to 79 percent who rejected the first tentative agreement and 85 percent who voted to strike. “The company basically took away some things, gave it back, and added some small wage increases,” said Nathan Jewett, a production worker who has been at the company for 15 years.
Six thousand Machinists at a key Boeing supplier, Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, went on strike June 24 after voting down the company’s “best and final offer.” “We could all go somewhere else and make similar pay,” said one worker who has been at the company for 15 years and asked to be anonymous to speak freely. The average pay is around $20 hourly. “We are fighting for insurance and language involving mandatory overtime,” he said. “We really want to be able to work a reasonable amount of time and afford to pay our bills without having to work 60 to 70 hours a week. Overtime should be for a new boat or a vacation—not to pay the electric bill.” Negotiations began in May.
Registered nurses in Texas and Kansas at three Ascension hospitals are moving forward with historic one-day strikes on Tuesday, June 27, to protest management’s resistance to bargain in good faith with RNs for union contracts that would help correct the endemic staffing crisis, announced National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU). Driven by their concerns about patient safety, these will be the largest nurse strikes in Texas and Kansas history. Ascension management’s punitive three-day lockout of nurses who go on strike has failed to intimidate them.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is proposing a new rule that would require trains traveling through the state have at least two crew members on board. The Democratic governor announced on Thursday that she has directed the Kansas Department of Transportation to propose the rule, which would be implemented following a public comment period of at least 60 days. It would apply to all railroads regardless of size, but includes no enforcement mechanism. “Railroads across the country have faced issues ranging from crew member fatigue to derailments, all of which pose a threat to Kansans’ safety and security,” Kelly said in a statement.
Lawrence, Kansas - Employees at a second Chipotle location are unionizing, this time in Lawrence, Kansas. The young workers are forming an independent union, and facing harsh—and likely illegal—pushback from management. A majority of workers’ signatures were collected on a petition to submit to the National Labor Relations Board, only to have that petition thrown away by management. So now they’re filing an unfair labor practice charge as they push to form a union. Quinlan Muller has worked at Chipotle for four years, at three different stores. “The Mass Street location is one of the most difficult stores I’ve worked at. We are understaffed, employees aren’t properly trained, and it’s not, like, the cleanest compared to other Chipotles.”
Kansas - Kansans have voted to protect abortion rights in their state. Yes, Kansas — the deep red state where Trump won by more than 15 percentage points last election cycle has voted to protect abortion rights. In fact, Kansas has a history of violence against abortion providers, including the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009.But the vote wasn’t even close. At the time of publishing, the vote was roughly 60% in favor of abortion rights and 40% against. It was overwhelmingly in favor of protecting abortion rights in the state, with a huge voter turnout and by a wide margin. Amidst the dystopian chaos that is the post-Roe world, legislators in Kansas tried to slip one past Kansans, holding a referendum in the middle of the summer, during a mostly Republican primary, in an effort to capture a repeal of the state’s constitutional protection for the right to abortion in a low-turnout event.
Laws intended to suppress journalism, whistleblowing, and speech on the food and agriculture industry continue to experience defeats in the United States court system. Known as “ag-gag” laws, the Tenth Circuit Court Of Appeals ruled [PDF] against the ag-gag law in Kansas, which became the first state to pass such a law in 1990. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled [PDF] on August 9 that a coalition of organizations proved they could be targeted by the ag-gag law in Arkansas and may proceed with their lawsuit. It also ruled [PDF] on August 10 that Iowa’s 2012 ag-gag law was partly unconstitutional. In all three states, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) was one of the plaintiffs challenging the manner in which these laws threaten freedom of speech under the First Amendment.
Community support is rolling in for Frito-Lay workers on strike in Topeka. Going into the second day of the first strike outside Topeka's Frito-Lay plant in nearly 50 years, a local relief fund had been set up to cover some union members' utility bills, as area businesses showed support for those on the front line. Members of Local 218 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers Union went on strike Monday after about 400 members voted down over the weekend a recent contract offer from Frito-Lay. The strike will last for an indefinite amount of time, and workers participating in the boycott are going without pay until it concludes. Given some union members may struggle financially during that time, a local relief fund organized by 785 Magazine aims to raise enough money to cover each union member's water bill for the month of July.
Members of the local union representing Frito-Lay workers have voted to strike. After multiple rounds of mediated contract negotiations with the company yielded little progress, members of Local 218 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers Union on Saturday voted to strike starting early next month. According to Mark Benaka, business manager for Local 218, a total of 383 union members turned out for a series of membership meetings held Saturday in Topeka. He indicated a strike vote was taken during those meetings, with members overwhelmingly voting in favor of the boycott. "A vote of 353-30 took them into a strike direction," Benaka said. He said the strike is expected to take effect just after midnight on Monday, July 5. However, he noted Frito-Lay representatives indicated Sunday they wished to meet again with the union's contract negotiating committee before that date.
Lincoln, NE — The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska is creating the nation's largest tribal national park on a forested bluff overlooking the Missouri River and a historic site of its people. The 444-acre park will allow the tribe to tell the story of the Ioway people and provide a rustic getaway where people can hike, camp and bird-watch, said Lance Foster, the tribe's vice chairman. "We've been here for 1,000 years now and, unlike other people who can buy and sell land and move away, we can never move away," Foster said. "This is our land forever. And we'll be here for another 1,000 years."
“No seizure medication helped. In fact, my seizures got progressively worse over time. It was terrible. Terrible. At my lowest I contemplated suicide,” Burgess told KCTV5 News. At one point, he was taking 23 pills per day to combat the seizures with little effect. Fredonia, Kan., authorities were possibly tipped off when Burgess chronicled his marijuana-growing endeavors on Instagram.