I’m a 64-year-old, union card-carrying Chevy man, so I cheered and clapped in front of my TV when Kevin Harvick won the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in his red-and-white number 4 Budweiser Impala SS.
It was a twofer for me. Chevy also snagged the manufacturer’s championship for the 12th time in a row and the 38th time overall.
Chevy, Ford and Toyota compete in NASCAR races. The UAW represents hourly workers at Chevy and Ford factories. Toyota’s American plants are nonunion.
So in my book, any union member rooting for a Toyota (or owning one) would be like a chicken cheering for Col. Sanders or running a KFC franchise.
Toyota won just two races this year. Chevy drivers took 20 checkered flags and Ford drivers 14.
Anyway, while Toyota’s Japanese factories are union, the company’s stateside plants aren’t. The bosses at Toyota USA, which has a factory at Georgetown here in Kentucky, are notorious union-busters.
Oh, workers at Toyota and other nonunion, foreign-owned car plants in the U.S. are compensated reasonably well. Thus, management is forever telling workers they don’t need a union.
Of course, mum’s the word from Toyota bigwigs about the fact that it’s UAW-won wages at union plants that keep worker wages up at nonunion plants. If foreign-owned plants provided their workers lousy wages and benefits, their workers might—you guessed it—join the UAW.
Plus, if the UAW went away, the wages and benefits of every auto or truck plant worker would sink like the Titanic.
Anyway, this Chevy fan—whose all-time favorite race car is Junior Johnson’s ‘63 “Mystery Motor” Impala SS —is always glad to see Bow Tie drivers win.
It’s also always great to see Toyotas finish behind Chevys and Fords.
By the way, Chevys, Fords and Toyotas roll on Goodyear Tires built in Akron, Ohio, by members of United Steelworkers Local 2L.
Through the years, I’ve owned three Chevys, two Fords, a Plymouth, a Pontiac and a Cadillac – all of them UAW-built. All of them have been great cars.
It behooves everybody who packs a union card to not just buy American but to buy union and American. It may be trite but it’s true for sure: the job you save might be your own.
I asked Dorothy Barkley what she’d say if Sen. Mitch McConnell showed up at her door in Paducah. “I’d tell him, ‘Granddaddy was a yellow dog Democrat, and I can see right through what you are doing by using his name,’” the feisty septuagenarian replied.
Her granddaddy was Alben W. Barkley of Paducah, Harry Truman’s vice president and the only Kentuckian to serve as senate majority leader. But McConnell, who often praises Barkley for his leadership, is almost certain to become the second one when the new GOP-majority senate convenes in a few weeks.
McConnell handily won another term, but not with Barkley's vote. She cast her ballot for “that nice young woman,” Alison Lundergan Grimes, Team Mitch's Democratic challenger.
Dubbed “The Veep,” Alben Barkley had been majority leader in the 1930s and 1940s under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and The Man from Missouri, who became president when FDR died in 1945.
Truman tapped Barkley as his running mate in 1948. Barkley was reelected to the senate in 1954 but died in office in 1956. He was 78.
McConnell likes being compared to Barkley, who was a congressman before he was a senator.
No matter, a stint as majority leader would be the only thing McConnell would have in common with Barkley, according to The Veep's granddaughter. “I remember my granddaddy well. I was 13 when he died.”
Last summer, Barkley, 71, got so perturbed about McConnell gushing over her grandparent that she dashed off a letter to the editor of the Paducah Sun, her hometown newspaper. The Sun endorsed McConnell.
Barkley wrote that she appreciated “Sen. Mitch McConnell’s pleasant words about my grandfather.” But she cautioned that “Alben Barkley was a ‘yellow dog’ Democrat.”
“I don’t know how many people know what that means anymore,” she wondered. For the uninitiated, it translates as a Democrat so devout he would vote for a “yellow dog” if the pooch were on the Democratic ticket.
Anyway, Barkley said the Veep “would have seen right through” McConnell’s “kind words.” She urged Sun readers, “Let’s get a new face in Washington, D.C., a Democrat.”
Barkley’s record backs up what his descendant says about him.
McConnell is a conservative whose bane is “big government.” Barkley didn’t duck the liberal label. He ardently supported FDR’s Depression-fighting New Deal program of massive federal action to put people back to work and to boost the economy. Too, Barkley was on board with Truman's "Fair Deal," which the president hoped would continue New Deal liberalism.
McConnell is partial to filibusters but not to unions. Barkley disdained the former and championed the latter.
While their political perspectives are as different as chalk and cheese, so are their political styles.
McConnell is prone to bare-knucks politics. “His glower has usually been enough to dissuade those who consider crossing him,” Jason Zingerle wrote in Politico.
Barkley preferred winning hearts and minds through humor and charm. While McConnell routinely demonizes Democrats, Barkley didn't talk like Republicans were hell-bound heathens.
In addition, Barkley practiced the politics of give-and-take. He didn't think "compromise" was a dirty word.
“I have been a loyal, regular Democrat all during my career,” he wrote in That Reminds Me, his folksy 1954 autobiography. “….However, that has never precluded me from recognizing a lot of good things emanating from the opposition. In the period when I was in Congress and the Democrats were in the minority I supported measures I thought were beneficial for the people, regardless of which side of the aisle they came from.”
Also, McConnell is less than Barkley-like on the stump. The Veep was a master at homespun campaign oratory. His story bag was bottomless.
Though Barkley became a politician in Paducah, where “Angles,” his brick antebellum home, still stands, Dorothy Barkley credits her ancestor’s celebrated wit and bonhomie (probably not a word the down-to-earth Barkley frequently used) to his rural Graves County origins.
The Veep was born in 1877 in a long-since disappeared two-story log cabin in the long-gone farming community of Wheel, about 20 miles from Paducah. “Graves County is where he got his sense of humor and his savviness,” Barkley said.
“Oh it ain't what you do it's the way that you do it,” Ella Fitzgerald famously crooned.
So it goes with lots of things, including public opinion polls: “It ain’t what you question it’s the way that you question it.”
In their failed right to work push, the GOP may have been heartened by a Survey USA Bluegrass Poll that had 55 percent of respondents answering “yes” to the question, “Should laws be changed to allow people to work in businesses that have unions without joining the union or paying union dues?”
The responses and the election results didn’t square. Republican state House candidates campaigned hard on right to work. They promised to make Kentucky a right to work state if they flipped the Democratic-majority House.
After the votes were counted, the Democrats maintained their 54-46 edge.
Anyway, the right to work question was misleading, I suspect unintentionally. A lot of people get right to work wrong.
To be sure, I’m not for a minute questioning the integrity of the poll or of its sponsors: the Louisville Courier-Journal, Louisville WAVE-TV, the Lexington Herald-Leader and Lexington WKYT-TV.
But the fact is, thousands of people work at unionized companies in Kentucky and elsewhere and don't belong to the union. They are salaried employees.
I imagine the percentage of “yes” responders to the poll question would have been considerably lower had the query been posed, “Should laws be changed to allow hourly workers in businesses with hourly worker unions to receive union-won wages and benefits without joining the union or paying union dues?"
A right to work law enables such freeloading.
Admittedly, many people, including some rank-and-file union members, misunderstand what right to work laws really do. The term “right to work” is a deliberate deception devised by supporters of such measures, the real purpose of which is to weaken large unions, wipe out small unions and discourage workers from joining a union.
In any event, the Republican House hopefuls can’t claim their right to work message wasn’t transmitted loud and clear to John and Jane Q. Citizen. On the stump and in their TV and print ads, they harped on right to work.
The election proved yet again the trite but true statement that “the only poll that counts is the one on election day.”
You have to look pretty hard to find something for unions to celebrate after the election.
But take a gander at the Bluegrass State beyond its much-publicized and hotly contested U.S. Senate race, and you’ll see where anti-union Republicans failed, big time.
The Kentucky GOP very publicly promised to put the Bluegrass State in the right to work column if they flipped the Democratic-majority state House of Representatives. The Republicans came up short.
While Mitch McConnell beat labor-endorsed Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in the Senate battle, the House is still Democratic and by 54-46, the pre-election margin.
Of course, McConnell v. Grimes grabbed the lion's share of media attention nationally and statewide. Even so, the House results are good news for unions in an otherwise generally dismal election.
With the Democrats holding onto the House, Kentucky will remain the only non-right to work state in the South.
"The outcome of the House races was huge for us," said Jeff Wiggins, president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council. "All that stands between us and a right to work law is that Democratic House."
The state Senate has a right to work Republican majority. Gov. Steve Beshear, a union-backed Democrat, would almost certainly veto a right to work bill. But in Kentucky, a simple majority of both houses of the legislature overrides a governor’s veto.
The House Republican candidates united to make right to work one of their top issues. Rep. Jeff Hoover, the House minority leader, stumped the state for right to work, posing for TV and newspaper cameras with local Republican candidates in tow.
A slew of GOP radio, TV and print ads touted a right to work law. The Republicans maintained such a measure would lead to dozens of companies and thousands of good jobs coming to Kentucky.
Paducah Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 184 challenged the Republicans on some of their turf, the GOP-friendly, anti-union Paducah Sun. The newspaper endorsed McConnell.
Even so, Local 184 took out a full page in the paper debunking Republican claims about right to work.
State Rep. Gerald Watkins of Paducah was one of the victorious labor-endorsed Democrats. "The ad was great and strong union support really helped me," said Watkins, one of the pro-union incumbents the GOP targeted for defeat.
Wiggins, who is also president of United Steelworkers Local 9447, said a Republican majority legislature wouldn’t have stopped with a right to work law.
“They would have repealed our prevailing wage law, too. We’d have ended up working for less money, and our workplaces would have become less safe. The Republicans would have turned back the clock to the time of no unions and the company store.”
If the Democrats think the 2014 election was bad, just wait.
I believe 2016 election will be much worse with all of the rightwing outside money flowing to the Republicans. The Republicans own rural America. That's been obvious to me for years.
I've warned about it on more blog post than I care to remember. To be honest I'm almost and/or may well be at the point where I believe that it simply isn't worth my time or efforts to try and inform folks that have no desire to be informed.
People I met while in Europe and other foreigners I've talked to are more aware of what's going on in America than most Americans I know. For example: Michael Biel left this comment last night on a Facebook page. Michael Biel: I got a message from a friend in ICELAND a few minutes ago: " from Olafur Sigurðsson: We are very concerned about where this will take America. People are saying America is leaning towards some sort of fascism, of course not the kind that we know from Italy in the war but oppressing liberty and manipulating society to collect riches and power and abusing peoples rights, please note I´m not a commie, I live in a huge "rock and roll mansion" in snob hill. But I wanted to tell you, people in Europe worry about where this is going, as you would I presume."
The Koch brothers Sheldon Adelson and other multi-billionaires that fund the GOP's dark money aren't stupid. They're masters of propaganda. They're in the same mold as "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half."Jay Gould. They know rural America is the key to power, vast wealth and the demise of real FDR type Democrats.
It's not like this hasn't happened before. Adolph Hitler did it in Germany.
From the German Propaganda archive: Adolf Hitler expressed the great importance of National Socialist rural propaganda in his February, 8 1931 speech to the First National Socialist Farmers’ Congress in Weimar. The Third Reich would be founded in the rural population, or it would fail. “Show ourselves in the villages!” That is the guideline of our propaganda leader. The more National Socialism takes hold in the countryside, the stronger will be the foundation of the Third Reich.
What is going on in America today is serious business and it can't be remedied by using our thumbs to send text messages on our cell phones. That being said, I suspect someday someone will be telling our grandchildren this: "while your thumbs were busy texting, the people in power were busy stealing your country. Sorry about your luck. I hope your thumbs are OK."
Folks fighting for a real Democracy have a real and nasty fight on their hands. Problem is the rightwing billionaires have all of the money and power and they know how to use it.
Like I said: “You can’t say you haven’t been warned.”
Gerald Watkins just might be the House Democrats’ Col. Joshua Chamberlain.
Union victory in the battle of Gettysburg depended on Chamberlain and his Maine regiment holding the Army of the Potomac’s endangered left flank.
He held and drove the Rebels back. The Yankees went on to win a great turning point battle of the Civil War.
Watkins, a union-endorsed Paducah Democrat, anchored his party’s threatened western flank in yesterday's election. He held and the Democrats are still the House majority party.
Watkins won one of Tuesday's toughest races. “Republicans have made gains in the west in recent elections and have targeted Watkins, who's served just one term,” wrote the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus before the vote.
The Republicans had to beat Watkins to have any chance of flipping the House.
Like Chamberlain on Little Round Top, Watkins stood firm in the Third District.
After Gettysburg, the Confederates were never able to mount an offensive into the North.
After tonight, it might be a while before the Republicans have another serious shot at taking the House and making Kentucky the next right to work state.
In two years, President Barack Obama won’t be on the ballot. If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she’ll have a good chance to carry Kentucky and to help Democrats increase their state House majority and whittle away at the GOP state Senate majority.
Joshua Chamberlain didn't win the battle of Gettysburg all by himself. But he earned a Medal of Honor.
Watkins didn’t keep the House Democratic on his own. But House Speaker Greg Stumbo ought to pin some kind of medal on the Western Kentuckian.
Google uses special graphics to mark special days.
Today, a spinning, American flag-wrapped ballot box appears on the popular search engine.
A twirling white box with red dollar signs might be more appropriate. The dollar signs would symbolize the millions of dollars right-wing, union-hating billionaires like the Koch sibs have spent trying to buy the election by lavishing a mountain of cash, especially on Red State, right-wing Republican candidates, including Mitch McConnell, the senior of Kentucky’s two union-busting senators.
White would symbolize the GOP’s neo-Jim Crow voter suppression laws, which are aimed squarely at minorities, notably African Americans, because they mostly vote Democratic.
White supremacist Southern Democratic legislators passed the original Jim Crow voter laws which disenfranchised blacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Back then, almost all African Americans voted for the Republicans, the party of “Lincoln and Liberty.”
Today, the Republican Party is largely what the Democrats used to be, notably in the South and in border states like Kentucky: the white folks party.
To be sure, the Republican vote suppressors don’t just dwell in Dixie. Some GOP-majority legislatures and governors up North have passed voter laws aimed at curbing minority voting.
Meanwhile, the GOP is happy for the helping hand from the Republican-majority Supreme Court. In 2010, came Citizens United, the high court ruling that loosed the Old Testament-size flood of campaign donations, most of the largesse going to Republicans. Earlier this year, the court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, freeing nine mostly Republican states – all but two in the old Confederacy – to change their voter laws without getting federal approval in advance.
So, Republicans, spare us the baloney about the “sanctity of the ballot box” and “the solemn majesty” of voting, especially today. You and your allies on the highest court in the land are systematically stacking the deck against minority voters and Democratic candidates.
Big Jim Eastland, Theo Bilbo, Leander Perez and the rest of the old white supremacist Southern Democratic crowd would be proud of you. So would “Dollar” Mark Hanna, conservative Republican President William McKinley’s multi-millionaire money man.
Alison Lundergan Grimes apologized for arriving about an hour late for her election eve rally in Paducah.
I know you had to wait for us to get here,” she told the crowd of about 300 Team Switch partisans who jammed the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 184 hall Monday morning.
“It was worth it!” a guy yelled. The candidate grinned and added, “Good things are worth waiting for, like going on to get rid of Mitch McConnell.”
The throng laughed, clapped, cheered and whistled.
“We’ve got 24 hours to make what I know is within our grasp,” declared the Democrat who wants Sen. Mitch McConnell’s job.
“Trust me, Mitch McConnell wouldn’t be spending like he is if he weren’t so scared. He has spent $53 million, not just against me, but against each and every one of you, trying to tell this state that if we give him another six years on top of the 30 he’s already had -- that’s moving in a new direction.
“Do you buy it?”
“No!” her fans chorused.
“He wants us to believe that we can’t live without his seniority because somehow we are all so much better off.”
Grimes looked at 92-year-old Democratic activist Hazel Demaree and asked her if she was better off. “No!” she and the crowd responded in unison.
“Seniority might be worth something if Mitch McConnell weren’t up for sale to the highest bidder,” Grimes suggested.
The candidate claimed her opponent “couldn’t get any more desperate.” She said McConnell is “trying put Barack Obama on the ballot.”
In addition, She denounced the McConnell campaign’s controversial flier marked “ELECTION VIOLATION NOTICE” on the outside, claiming it amounted to voter suppression.
On the inside, the mailer accused Grimes of putting out “fraudulent information” to voters. Grimes said the flier was designed to frighten people away from the polls. Her campaign filed an injunction to stop it.
“Fear is what you run on when you are out of touch and out of ideas,” she said, adding that the mailer “is the lowest of the low.”
She concluded: “This is what we are up against….Trust me this is going to be a photo finish." McConnell wouldn't be spending "like he is spending – he is writing himself a $1.8 million check – and paying people to show up and act enthusiastic…and using scare tactics and voter intimidation tactics” if he was sure he would win.
She urged the crowd to turn out big and vote. “We are 24 hours from making history,” said Grimes, whose Paducah entourage included Gov. Steve Beshear, who spoke briefly, former Gov. Martha Layne Collins and House Speaker Greg Stumbo.
Emcee Larry Sanderson, a retired UA international representative, also reminded rally-goers to also vote for other labor-endorsed candidates, including a quintet of Democrats running for the state legislature. They are Reps. Gerald Watkins of Paducah and Will Coursey of Symsonia, House hopefuls Jesse Wright of Mayfield and Jarrod Jackson of Princeton, and Jeff Parker of Paducah, who is seeking a state Senate seat.
Grimes’ appearance in Paducah was the fourth stop on a nine-city airplane jaunt across Kentucky. Before landing in Paducah, she was in Pikeville, Somerset and Bowling Green. After Paducah, she barnstormed in Owensboro, Newport, Maysville, Louisville and finally Lexington, where she lives.