UFCW Local 2 welcomed dozens of workers and community members from across Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri to the grand opening of the Mike Bellinger Community Center on June 3rd in Dodge City, Kansas. Laura Kelly, Governor of Kansas; Shaun Barclay, UFCW International Secretary-Treasurer; representatives from the regional and national OSHA offices; and leaders of labor and the Southwest Kansas communities also attended the grand opening.
The community center’s goal is to keep building power in Southwest Kansas working-class communities and as a hub for organizing and building strength for the local union.
The center will ensure members have access to essential services and support from the local staff. It will provide a space for cutting-edge steward training sessions, civics and ESOL classes, preventive healthcare campaigns, and immigration clinics for citizenship and DACA under the UFCW’s Union Citizenship Action Network (UCAN) program.
“This center is the product of hard work and heart,” said UFCW International Secretary-Treasurer Shaun Barclay. “This center will give back for years to come – regardless of whether they are union members or not. It will help fill a void, one felt across so much of rural America, the void that comes from the reality that too many of the men and women who help feed and serve this nation are left with lack of access to essential services.”
The event, which was simultaneously translated to accommodate Spanish speaking members, also highlighted the UFCW New American Citizenship Fund, which awards scholarships to members who have applied for U.S. citizenship, recognizing about 20 Local 2 members who recently became U.S. citizens and received the scholarship.
During the event, Dodge City Toros Football Club presented a jersey to Governor Laura Kelly and to UFCW Local 2 President Martin Rosas for their continued support in youth and children soccer.
The community center was named after Mike Bellinger, a former UFCW Local 2 leader who was key in the growth and advancement of the union.
Prior to its official inauguration, the community center was used for COVID-related health services such as testing and vaccination for members and Southwest Kansas residents, and it offers a comprehensive civics program for immigrant members who want to become U.S. Citizens while improving their English language skills.
“Our goal is to bring some quality resources lacking in these rural surroundings”, said Martin Rosas, UFCW District Union Local 2 President. “Some of the essential services will include reliable legal advice, bilingual civics engagement education, training in labor law and industry safety standards, dependable immigration services, youth sports programs, and health awareness education. With this in mind, the new Mike Bellinger Community Center will be open not only to our UFCW members but to all the working-class people and their families in Southwest Kansas.”
UFCW Local 2 represents a diverse membership of approximately 13,000 members in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, and represents workers in the major processing plants including National Beef, Cargill, Triumph, Butterball, Tyson, Seaboard, and Smithfield.