The Labor Beacon Newspaper, formed in 1954 by Meyer Goldman, a visionary who helped define the labor movement here in Kansas City. At its peak nearly 45,000 union members received the Labor Beacon in their home every week. Throughout the 50’s, 60’s and the 70’s the Labor Beacon reported not only the news, the news from labors perspective. In 1978, while at the height of its success, the Labor Beacon helped rally the labor movement to rise up and fight the efforts of Republican lawmakers in Jefferson City who were attempting to enact Right-To-Work (for less).
In the 1980’s there was a major shift in the world of union members. Ronald Reagan became president and soon he locked out the PATCO strikers. That event set back organized labor for many years. While the labor movement began to shrink in size the Labor Beacon felt the sting. Meyer Goldman sold the paper and a couple of owners tried to revive it’s sinking subscriptions. In 1993 the paper had dwindled to under 2,000 subscriptions. The paper was for sale and there weren’t a lot of buyers. Kevin O’Neill saw something in this paper. “It just seemed like there was a void in this industry. There was no one telling the working mans story. The Labor Beacon had a good name and a respected history. I thought if someone were to put in the effort this paper could become relevant again,” O’Neill stated.
O’Neill brought in his father Pat O’Neill, who had semi-retired, to write for the paper. Pat O’Neill was a respected publicist in the area that had strong ties to both politics and labor. “A lot of people knew dad and respected him,” Kevin stated. “I really had no idea what I was doing, but I think a lot of the labor leaders at the time thought my dad owned the paper and I didn’t discourage them from thinking that. He gave me great credibility at a time when I really needed it.”
After 20 years of learning his craft, Kevin O’Neill is no longer the snot-nosed young man in the room. He is a veteran of the labor movement with over 20 years of reporting and editorializing on the subject of labor. During his years with the Beacon he has worked through the span of three presidents, five governors of Missouri and five governors of Kansas. There have been three presidents of the Greater Kansas City Labor Council and four presidents of the Tri-County Labor Council in addition to three Business Managers of the Greater Kansas City Building Trades.
Today, as an elder statesman, Kevin O’Neill sits at the leadership table with most of the labor leaders in Kansas City. He works to help shape the future of the labor movement as it moves forward in these perilous times. Today the Labor Beacon has nearly 30,000 subscribers. It goes out directly to the homes of these individuals. The Labor Beacon is alive and well and remains the voice for over 60,000 union members in the Kansas City area for nearly 60-years.