The opinion article below, written and submitted by our Chief Mission Officer, Anita Davis, was published today, Friday, April 30th, in the Kansas City Star. A link to the online feature is included at the bottom of this page.
BY ANITA DAVIS SPECIAL TO THE STAR
APRIL 30, 2021 05:00 AM
Businesses are reopening and jobs are coming back, but not for everyone. According to the website, tracktherecovery.org, while the recession has almost ended for high-wage workers, employment for low-wage workers is still 30% lower than it was just before the pandemic in February 2020.
Low-wage workers, employed in the hardest-hit industries such as retail, hospitality and restaurants, represent 44% of the workforce in the U.S. and are a significant contribution to our national and local economies. As a result, Black and Hispanic individuals — a large portion of this workforce — suffered the greatest economic losses. It is important now, more than ever, that the government focus on policies that support access to jobs and invest in programs and services that help all workers achieve equity in income and economic opportunity.
Instead, the city of Olathe continues to enforce classist policies and practices that devalue people perceived to be of a lower socioeconomic class. Recently, and with the support of the nearby homeowners association, we at MoKan Goodwill intended to relocate our longstanding Olathe retail store and donation center across the street from where we have been operating for nearly two decades in Olathe. The city denied the license application, pointing to its ordinance that restricts thrift stores from operating near residential neighborhoods and other thrift stores.
The ordinance, enacted in 2016, specifically targets nonprofit and charitable thrift stores, lumping them in the same category as bail bonding companies, pawnshops and other adult-type businesses.
Denying Goodwill the ability to open a store in the city serves no legitimate public purpose. Economically, the store would be filling a storefront that has been vacant for the last two years, provide nearly three dozen jobs to community residents and increasing access to affordable clothes and goods. A portion of our store revenue also supports workforce development programs and services that help people with barriers to employment attain skills and jobs.
“We want to support and advance and do business with Black-owned businesses across the country," the owner of the Black Pantry said.
In 2020, MoKan Goodwill served more than 12,000 people, including Olathe residents and community partners, by delivering digital skills training at the Johnson County Department of Corrections Adult Residential Center and by donating medical scrubs to front-line health care workers at Olathe Medical Center.
This ordinance unfairly and arbitrarily targets nonprofit and charitable thrift stores with no clear basis or reasoning to support it. These types of policies are based on unfounded beliefs and attitudes that rank people according to economic status, job status or other divisions. They create structural barriers that block retail jobs needed by people displaced during the pandemic and result in deeper income gaps. The actions taken in Olathe not only affect MoKan Goodwill, but also will reverberate to other businesses and nonprofits for years to come. This will have a negative effect on the city of Olathe and its residents overall.
MoKan Goodwill is hopeful that the city of Olathe will change its stance on nonprofit and charitable organizations in their community. It is more important now than ever to help create truly inclusive communities and put an end to policies and practices that promote systemic classism and discrimination. We must encourage our government leaders to support policies that promote economic opportunity and create job opportunities for all workers.
Anita Davis is chief mission officer for Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas.