Gilded Age steel tycoon Henry Clay Frick is long gone.
But his old union-busting tactic in is play at the Century Aluminum plant in Hawesville.
Frick loved the lockout.
Century Aluminum locked out approximately 570 members of United Steelworkers Local 9423 after the union rejected what the company called its final contract offer.
Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president, said the Century lockout is typical of lockouts.
“Lockouts are strikes by the company. The company hands the union a ridiculous contract they know the union won’t accept. When the union votes it down, the company goes into lockout mode.
“The idea is to create desperation and economic hardship among the workers in a cynical ploy designed to starve union members into accepting a grossly substandard contract and return to work on the company’s terms.”
Before the lockout, Century brought in trailers to house strikebreakers and posted armed guards around them, Londrigan said. He added that the company hired scabs and sent them into the plant to shadow union members and learn how to do their jobs.
Just as national attention has been focused on the sections of Baltimore that have been largely locked out of the revival of economic activity in downtown Baltimore and the Inner Harbor, the new Republican governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, is considering whether to proceed with the construction of the Red Line in Baltimore, as well as the Purple Line in the Maryland DC suburbs.
Early in his gubernatorial campaign, Hogan promised to kill the projects, saying the money would be better spent on roads and that the western, eastern, and southern parts of the state deserved more attention. But closer to the election he moderated his views, saying the lines were "worth considering."
Now Transport for American (t4america.com) has weighed in, producing a report that argues that the benefits of the lines make them well worth their cost. Indeed, part of their case may well help explain why Gov. Hogan is "deciding" when originally Candidate Hogan sounded like he had already made up his mind. For the Transport for America case for these lines, join me below the fold.
We may never know if Kentucky GOP gubernatorial hopeful James Comer really beat up a woman he dated in college or went with her to an abortion clinic, as she charges.
Comer, the state agriculture commissioner, hotly denies the allegations.
If Comer, who hails from Tompkinsville, loses the May 19 primary, the story will almost certainly vanish. Comer’s threatened lawsuit against the Courier-Journal for publishing the woman's allegations probably will disappear, too.
If Comer wins, the story will continue to have legs. But it's hard to predict the outcome.
Anyway, while the media is focused on the soap opera aspect of the story, it behooves union members to stay concentrated on the big picture: Comer is a bare-knucks union buster.
So are the other two Republican primary frontrunners: ex-Louisville Metro council member Hal Heiner and Matt Bevin, the Falls City business owner and tea party hero who Mitch McConnell clobbered in last year’s GOP senatorial primary.
All three are stumping the state in support of “right to work.” (McConnell even favors a national RTW law.)
“Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer says passing a statewide right-to-work law would be his first priority if elected as Kentucky's next governor,” reported WKMS, Murray State University’s National Public Radio station. Comer was speaking to the town’s Rotary Club.
“Compared to other candidates in the GOP field, Comer said only he could pass a right-to-work bill with the General Assembly’s current makeup," wrote cn2’s Kevin Wheatley.
He quoted Comer: “If we can agree on another plan like the earned-income tax credit, we can get enough Democrats — we can, [state Sen.] Chris McDaniel [Comer's running mate] and I — to pass the right-to-work legislation.”
“If we’re going to be able to grow our economy to be able to reduce taxes and reduce the size of government, we have to get the economy going from day one of our administration. Right to work will do that.”
Heiner’s website says: “Far too often, states with right to work laws have beaten out Kentucky for the best jobs – it is time for Kentucky to join the 24 [now 25] other states that allow workers the right to choose. The stalemate in Frankfort has caused local communities to take matters into their own hands and pass local right to work laws. We need it on the state level. Period.”
Bevin’s Facebook page trumpets “IT’S TIME FOR KENTUCKY TO BECOME THE NEXT RIGHT TO WORK STATE!” The candidate posted, “Having worked as a small business owner and job creator for decades in the private sector, I understand how wealth is created. The main role of government in growing our economy is to remove barriers that hinder economic growth. Stopping job-killing policies will be a priority of a Bevin-[Jenean M.] Hampton Administration and that means making Kentucky more competitive through Right to Work legislation!”
The fourth Republican candidate, Will T. Scott, has evidently said nothing about right to work or the prevailing wage, which Comer, Heiner and Bevin want to abolish. Scott, a former state supreme court justice from Pikeville, is far behind in the polls.
Conway, a Louisvillian and the state’s attorney general, is the Kentucky State AFL-CIO endorsed candidate for governor.
Comer’s tribulations as well as the Comer-Heiner-Bevin slugfest for the GOP nomination is fun to read about in the newspaper or watch on TV. It’s a hoot that they are yelling at each other and calling each other liars like kids on a grade school playground.
But the Republican internecine strife is only a sideshow. The main show is Comer, Heiner and Bevin’s abysmal record on union issues.
Conway could hardly be plainer where he stands on our issues. He is with us in opposing RTW and in supporting the prevailing wage.
Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find a more pro-union candidate for governor in Bluegrass State history than Conway.
I’ve heard more than a few of my union brothers and sisters muse on that topic of late.
They are peeved over President Obama’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. So am I. (All of us voted for the president both times he ran.)
They are even more miffed at Kentucky county officials who call themselves Democrats and yet voted for local “right to work” ordinances.
I am, too.
I’ve long wished we had a major labor party like the British Labour Party, which grew out of the British trade union movement.
Until we get a viable labor party, I’m sticking with the Democrats.
Labor parties have sprouted in America from time to time, and all of them have failed. Doubtless, the Republicans would love to see union members desert the Democrats in droves and try to start another labor party.
On the other hand, I’d be glad to see these right-wing, pro-RTW “Democrats” switch to the GOP. I’d bet the farm that none of them voted for Obama and that most of them voted for Mitch McConnell over Alison Lundergan Grimes.
In any event, a mass union exodus from the Democrats would all but doom organized labor. It would hopelessly split the working class vote and virtually guarantee the Republicans everlasting victories at the polls, from county courthouses and city halls to state legislatures and congress.
Once in complete control, GOP lawmakers would pass bill after bill to finish off unions, starting with a national RTW law.
Organized labor’s best bet – our only bet – is to stick with the Democrats. But we’ve got to do our part to keep the party from becoming Republican lite, the apparent goal of the less-than-union-friendly “Blue Dog Democrats,” a breed all too common in Kentucky. I’d also wish Blue Dogs Godspeed to the GOP.
This 66-year-old Democrat and lifelong Kentuckian who packs a union card in retirement fondly remembers when Bluegrass State Democrats were proud to call themselves “liberal.”
Ned Breathitt, Alben Barkley and Wilson Wyatt come to mind.
Breathitt, governor from 1963 to 1967, backed and signed the South’s first state civil rights law, which the General Assembly approved in 1966. He was a strong supporter of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. He applauded LBJ’s leadership in championing landmark federal civil rights laws aimed at ending years of Southern Jim Crow segregation and race discrimination, which included wholesale disfranchisement of African Americans.
By the way, the vote for the Kentucky Civil Rights Act of 1966 was bipartisan, as were the votes on the federal civil rights bills. There were even liberal Republicans in our state in the 60’s, with U.S. Sen. John Sherman Cooper standing in their front ranks. Cooper voted for the civil rights legislation.
Barkley, Senate majority leader under FDR and President Harry S. Truman’s vice president, was an ardent backer of FDR’s New Deal and The Man from Missouri’s Fair Deal. “I was a liberal and a progressive long before I ever heard of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” said “the Veep.”
In 1947, a year before Barkley was elected vice president, Wilson Wyatt, a former Louisville mayor and future lieutenant governor, helped found the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action.
Today, beyond Louisville and Lexington, a lot of Kentucky Democratic politicians shove the throttle to Mach 2 fleeing the “liberal” label. They shift into warp speed scampering from the “socialist” handle.
More than a few of them try to out pander the GOP on the so-called social issues, what of my union brothers calls “The Three Gs – God, guns and gays.”
Anyway, my candidate for president this time is a senator who’s running as a Democrat, though he got elected as an independent and calls himself a socialist.
He’s Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
I’m the first to admit Sanders couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Kentucky. Neither could I; I’m one of those “liberal national Democrats” Republicans and Blue Dogs disparage.
There’s also no way Sanders can beat Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination.
Even so, the senator’s quest seems to be neither quixotic nor ego-driven as was the case with Ralph Nader in 2000. His narcissism helped give us Bush II.
“…That might not be so hard,” he writes. “Clinton is a mainstream liberal, and these days mainstream liberals tend to want the same things that Sanders does — a stronger welfare state, more regulation of business, higher wages for the lower and middle classes, action on climate change….Sanders could push her in ways that are unlikely to hurt and might very well help — by encouraging her to confront Wall Street more forcefully, for example, or getting her to endorse government negotiation of prices with drug companies.”
I have no problem with my union brothers and sisters boosting Clinton from the get go. Eventually, I’ll join her team.
Meanwhile, I invite my fellow trade unionists to take a look at Sanders’ record on labor issues.
The junior senator from the Green Mountain State has sided with us on bills 98 percent of the time, according to the AFL-CIO’s legislative scorecard.
Clinton is no slouch either. She voted the union position on issues 96 percent of the time when she was a New York senator.
So when Sanders comes up short in the primaries, I’ll be for Clinton. I’d bet the farm Sanders will be, too.
Clinton won’t just be my default candidate. She’s got solid liberal creds.
Clinton (Sanders, too) has more than enough moxie to stand toe to toe with whichever tea party-tilting, union-busting, xenophobic, Social Darwinist, evolution-denying, war-mongering (as long as somebody else does the actual fighting), neo-Confederate, gay-basher of the Jesus-loves-me-but-He-can’t-stand-you persuasion emerges from the GOP primary scrum.
I have an “I’m Ready for Hillary” bumper sticker I’ll plaster on my UAW-made Chevy as soon as Clinton is the nominee.
Right now, though, I’m hunting for one that says “Bernie 2016.”
Click here to visit his website. Click here To view the video of his inaugural campaign trip to New Hampshire.
Steelworker Jeff Wiggins didn’t just vote for Barack Obama both times the president ran.
He wore out shoe leather campaigning for him in 2008 and 2012.
But Wiggins, the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL CIO Area Council president, is less than happy with Obama and other Democrats who are pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.
“It’s ten times worse than NAFTA,” said Wiggins, area council president and president of Steelworkers Local 9447 in Calvert City.
Wiggins doesn’t understand how Obama, who earned the AFL-CIO endorsement both times he ran and who had a strong pro-labor voting record when he was an Illinois senator, could support TPP. “It’s backed by Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and the other Republican union haters,” he said.
Added Wiggins: "I feel like there are only two people really fighting for us in Washington. One is Elizabeth Warren and the other is Bernie Sanders. They are fighting the president tooth and nail over this trade deal.”
Warren is a Democratic senator from Massachusetts. Sanders is Vermont’s independent senator.
“Bernie Sanders is an independent because he is too liberal to be a Democrat,” said Wiggins.
Sanders calls himself a socialist, though he recently tossed his hat in the ring for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
Sanders’ political views are pretty much in line with western European democratic socialist, social democratic and labor parties.
Wiggins said Sanders and Warren “are my idols and the people I look up to most in Washington.”
Wiggins has met both senators. “You couldn't ask for finer people."
Wiggins knows Sanders can’t beat former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
But like several Americans who pack union cards, he hopes the senator can keep Clinton “right on the issues important to working people.”
Sanders also admires Obama and Clinton. So does Warren. All four have enviable pro-labor voting records.
Sanders has backed the union position on bills 98 percent of the time he’s been in the senate, according to the AFL-CIO’s Legislative Scorecard. Clinton scored 94 percent for her 2001-2009 tenure as a New York senator.
Obama notched a 98 percent rating when he was in the senate from 2005-2008. Warren has a perfect score of 100 so far.
Sanders never misses a chance to praise unions, in or out of the Green Mountain State. A YouTube video of Sanders speaking at a March 31 town hall meeting in Austin, Tex., is making the Internet rounds.
Sanders spoke at the IBEW Local 520 hall in the capital of the Lone Star State. The video is worth a look, even to folks with “I’m Ready for Hillary” stickers on their bumpers.
Rolling Stone Sanders offers an implicit challenge to the current system of national electoral politics. With rare exceptions, campaign season is a time when the backroom favorites of financial interests are marketed to the population. Weighed down by highly regressive policy intentions, these candidates need huge laboratories of focus groups and image consultants to guide them as they grope around for a few lines they can use to sell themselves to regular working people. Read more.
Vermont Public Radio VPR News has learned from several sources that independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday, April 30, 2015.
Sanders will release a short statement on that day and then hold a major campaign kickoff in Vermont in several weeks. Read more.
Common Dreams WASHINGTON -- Progressive Democrats have been hoping to see a showdown between Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton for years. Instead, they're getting a public feud between the senator from Massachusetts and President Barack Obama. Read more.
Much of the focus on the Sunday Train is on electrification of transport, ranging from 2,000 mile hauls of electrified freight through to hopping on an e-bike to pick up some groceries. And spending this school year mostly living and working in Beijing brings many of the possibilities to life ... from riding the subway to get to the Sanlitun district for Texas BBQ, to seeing an electric freight train passing on a line overhead as the bus we were riding for our school spring outing last Saturday was bogged down in Beijing traffic, to seeing the electric delivery tricycle used by the pizza delivery from Woudaokou for the neighbor down the haul who seems to live in delivered pizza and Indian food.
But the efficiency gains of electric traction are only half of the story for sustainable transport, since its not fully sustainable unless that electricity is generated in a sustainable way.
And when following online discussion of renewable energy at the Energy Collective, which attracts both advocates for and detractors of investment in renewable energy resources, a perennial source of ammunition for attacks on renewable energy are the challenges of meeting demand for electricity with the harvest of a variable source of energy that is available on its own schedule, and not ours.
This is a topic I have touched on before (cf , ), Inspired by the article at the Energy Collective: Will Natural Gas Peaker Plants Become Obsolete?, I am coming back to today. What I want to focus on today is the opportunities offered by dispatchable demand for better integration of variable renewable energy. And I would be happy if you would join me to discuss this topic (or any other topic involving sustainable transport), below the fold.
The authors write: “Professor Rolland Zullo of the University of Michigan points to the ominous consequences of passing RTW laws, which make resources for worker safety scarce. Zullo states that ‘RTW laws result in the underfunding of union safety training… [and] accident prevention activities.’ Further, Zullo’s research — which pulls from both the U.S. Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics — concludes that ‘the rate of occupational fatalities is 34 percent higher in RTW states.’ One possible reason for decreased worker safety in RTW states, Zullo writes, is that an ‘objective of organized labor is to protect worker safety and health.’”
Anti-union business and industry reacted with near hysteria to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which Congress created in 1970.
In the 1960s, approximately 14,000 workers were dying on the job every year. Millions were being disabled from accidents and injuries at work.
Unions looked to Washington for help in stopping the slaughter. No union leader worked harder for federal worker safety and health standards than Tony Mazzocchi, a longtime official of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, now part of the Steelworkers.
Mazzocchi was an ardent environmentalist and chair of the first Earth Day rally in New York City on April 22, 1970. He was dubbed “The Rachel Carson of the American Workplace.” Carson, who authored Silent Spring, is often considered the founder of the modern environmental movement.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act set uniform, national workplace safety and health standards. The law also created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration—OSHA for short—as part of the labor department. OSHA was empowered to enforce the standards.
OSHA was officially established on April 28, 1971. That’s why unions observe April 28 as Workers Memorial Day.
The reactionary John Birch Society, famous for flights of conspiratorial fantasy, helped lead the anti-OSHA charge, revving up a “Put OSHA Out of Business Campaign.”
An article in the Bircher magazine accused OSHA inspectors of using “Gestapo style tactics.” The Gestapo was Adolf Hitler's murderous secret police.
The Birchers have long equated unions with communism. They argued that union-backed OSHA was another step toward a Red America – like fluoridated drinking water, which they said was a secret communist plot to poison Americans.
“Just like a rabid dog, it needs to be destroyed,” an Idaho Bircher and small business owner said of OSHA.
Small business and big business organizations teamed up with the Birchers, right-wing politicians and right-wing newspaper columnists and radio hosts in hopes of killing OSHA. They failed, but the Reagan administration and both Bush administrations did all they could to fatally weaken OSHA.
They slashed OSHA's budget. They limited new safety rules. They rolled back old ones. They reined in OSHA inspectors. To run the agency, they hired executives from the industries OHSA oversaw.
Probably the worst example of the fox guarding the henhouse at OSHA was Thorne Auchter, a Florida Republican and Reagan campaigner who The Gipper named to head OSHA. OSHA had cited Auchter's family-owned construction company for safety violations.
On his first day as OSHA chief, Auchter demanded the destruction of booklets that warned against the danger of cotton dust.
Later, he ordered staffers to recall three worker safety videos commissioned by Eula Bingham, OSHA head in the Carter administration. Auchter "threatened to withold funding for union safety and health programs that did not return the videos."
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader said Auchter "shackled” OSHA. Unions charged Auchter with the "systematic and insidious dismantling of OSHA."
This Workers’ Memorial Day marks OSHA’s 45th anniversary.
If today’s Republican party had its way, there wouldn’t be a 46th. If this GOP had controlled Congress in 1970, there wouldn’t have been an OSHA.
Republican Richard Nixon was president in 1970. Less than union friendly, he objected to parts of the legislation that created OSHA. But Nixon signed the bill, which passed the Democratic-majority House and Senate with bipartisan support.
Nixon hailed the legislation as "an example of the American system at its best."
When the Birchers and the rest of the right-wing noise machine declared holy war on OSHA, Rep. William A. Steiger, a Wisconsin Republican, rushed to the agency’s defense.
Steiger co-sponsored the OSHA legislation. He said Bircher claims that OSHA employed “Gestapo like tactics” were “shoddy and irresponsible.”
The likes of Nixon and Steiger would, of course, would be detested “RINOs” – Republicans In Name Only -- in today’s GOP of the tea party, a 21st century Birch Society clone.
Every Republican running for president wants to cleave OSHA funding to the bone, or abolish the agency.
Almost all Republicans in Congress hate OSHA – and unions -- with Birch Society fervor. Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe also likened OHSA to the Gestapo.
The Gestapo tortured and took the lives of thousands of innocent Europeans.
OSHA is saving the lives – and limbs – of thousands of innocent Americans.
Two union-busters are touting their mid-March poll that purports to prove most Kentuckians are pro-“right to work.”
Of the poll's 600 respondents, “39 percent didn't even know what a right-to-work law is,” the duo wrote in a recent Lexington Herald-Leader op-ed column. “But when educated on what a right-to-work law means, ‘no one can be required to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment,’ 59 percent agree.”
The poll was from Americans for Prosperity Kentucky, the Bluegrass State branch of Charles and David Koch's propaganda ministry.
No doubt, when the AFP flacks wrote “poll” they wanted H-L readers to think “independent poll.” They failed to mention that their pollsters were from Echelon Insights, which is – you guessed it – a right-wing Republican firm cozy with the billionaire Koch brothers.
The survey looks like a “push poll.”
A push poll is carefully crafted to sound like an independent poll. But in a push poll, the questions are worded to lead John and Jane Q. Citizen to provide answers the survey’s sponsor seeks.
In other words, a push poll is bogus but made to look legit.
The flacks tipped their hand when they wrote “...when educated on what a right-to-work law means.” Independent pollsters don’t try to “educate” respondents with questions that are misleading or false. They want a true gauge of public opinion.
What the RTW flacks don’t want John and Jane Q to know is that it is illegal to force anybody to join a union and that RTW laws permit workers to enjoy union-won wages, benefits and representation to management without joining the union and paying dues or paying the union a service fee.
“It's time that we close the curtain on the false choices of this political drama,” the flacks concluded. “Right-to-work is not a choice between being pro-union or anti-union — it's an opportunity to allow workers to decide for themselves.”
Right to work laws are inherently anti-union. They are designed to weaken large unions, wipe out small unions and discourage workers from joining unions.
Workers themselves decide if they want a union, by the very method all Americans chose their representatives in government at all levels: by an election.
The candidate who gets the most votes wins. The union comes in only if a majority of workers votes for it.
Once they are voted in, unions negotiate work contracts with employers. To take effect, contracts must ultimately be accepted by both sides.
In non-RTW states like Kentucky, unions and management are free to have contracts with “union security clauses.” Such clauses, supported by the union, stipulate that if workers covered by the contract are to enjoy the privileges of a union presence, they should help fund the union’s work on their behalf.
Under a union security clause, workers still don't have to join the union. They pay the union a representation fee, rather than the full cost of union dues.
Simply put, it's all about majority rule. A majority of workers votes to have a union. Union and management negotiators agree to a contract with a union security clause. The contract is ratified when a majority of union members votes for it.
I’ve voted Democratic in every election from president on down since 1968, the first year I was old enough to cast a ballot. Yep, I’m one of those native Kentucky “yellow dog” Democrats.
I haven’t been happy when Republicans ruled the roost in Washington or in Frankfort. But when the GOP has been in, I've kept paying my taxes to help pay for the services I am glad government provides my family and me, from military, police and fire protection, to roads, street lights and the public schools where my son was educated.
Though it’s not my majority when Republicans rule, as a citizen I accept it as majority rule.
Anyway, the term “right to work” is a deliberate deception devised long ago by ferociously anti-union employer groups. Since, RTW has been pushed by anti-union politicians like Kentucky's Republican senators, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul (they co-sponsored national RTW legislation), and by anti-union groups like AFP that lavish a mountain of money on anti-union politicians.
In any event, it's interesting how pro-RTW politicians claim they're against "big government.”
But they love RTW laws, under which “big government” tells unions and private companies they can’t get together and negotiate contracts with union security clauses.
The union-busters must have figured Grayson County for a slam dunk on a “right to work” ordinance.
After all, the county and Leitchfield, its seat, are pretty deeply GOP Red. The judge-executive is a Republican. So are all six county magistrates. Sen. Mitch McConnell carried the county in a blowout last November.
But the other day, a proposed RTW ordinance couldn’t even muster a vote at the fiscal court meeting.
A magistrate subbed for the judge-executive who was ill. When he asked his fellow magistrates to green light a first reading on the ordinance, mum was the word.
“No motion was made, and the Right to Work ordinance died for lack of a motion,” the Grayson County News Gazette reported.
Interestingly, two state leaders of the county RTW crusade were no-shows -- the guy from the Bowling Green-based Bluegrass Institute and his road buddy from Florida-based Protect My Check.
Were the union-busters that confident of victory? Or were they resigned to defeat?
Oh, back in December, the whole anti-union crowd was bragging that as many as 30 counties would pass RTW ordinances by the end of January. They claimed a rising RTW tide would flood the state House of Representatives and scare the majority Democrats into endorsing a state RTW bill the GOP senate passed.
The House didn’t budge, and the RTW tide turned out to be a trickle. The RTW county total has been stuck on a dozen for some time now.
That means 108 counties have not passed a RTW ordinance. Many have said they will not. Two counties – Marshall and Magoffin – have approved anti-RTW resolutions.
The Grayson non-vote evidently made only the local media. I Googled “grayson county kentucky right to work.” I got just three hits – two from the News Gazette and one from K105, a Leitchfield radio station.
On the other hand, the counties that passed RTW ordinances have been all over the news statewide and nationally. (The Marshall and Magoffin votes mostly got only local press, too.)
In any event, Bill Londrigan, the Kentucky State AFL-CIO president, attended the Grayson fiscal court meeting. So did a number of union members, including Grayson countians.
Of course, Londrigan and the union folks were happy how the vote – or, rather, non-vote, turned out. But Londrigan urged union members statewide to "be vigilant and watch for any indication at your county fiscal court that RTW proponents have been meeting with elected representatives or if it gets on the agenda. Thanks to the watchfulness of several unionists from Grayson County, our forces were there for the first reading, and the results were positive.”
In basketball, or in any other sport – in politics, too – you know you’re in trouble when you can’t beat the bunnies.
For the union-busters, Grayson County must have looked like the surest of sure-fire slams. But the ball ricocheted off the rim, and the union team grabbed the rebound and the win.
It looks like the wheels have come off the scab-built “right to work” clown car.
The union-busters predicted 30 counties would pass RTW ordinances by the end of January, according to Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president.
Only a dozen of the Bluegrass State’s 120 counties are in the RTW column. That's 10 percent. In baseball, 12 for 120 is a couldn't-hit-water-if-you-were-falling-out-of-a-boat batting average of .100.
It’s been several days since an ordinance passed, though the Grayson County fiscal court is expected to hold a hearing on a RTW ordinance Friday at the courthouse in Leitchfield.
The hearing is scheduled to start at 11 a.m., central daylight time. The courthouse is at 10 Public Square.
Londrigan is sending the county judge/executive, magistrates and the county attorney information about RTW and the lawsuit nine unions filed in federal court in Louisville against the Hardin County RTW ordinance. The court action, initiated in January, could apply to other county RTW measures.
“Union members and representatives are encouraged to attend and residents of Grayson County are also encouraged to sign up to speak against the RTW ordinance,” Londrigan said. More information about the Grayson hearing is available from Londrigan by phone at (502) 682-1497. His email address is email@example.com.
Meanwhile, RTW seems to be stalled in Adair, Kenton and Campbell counties. A second reading of the Adair ordinance is not scheduled for this month, according to Londrigan.
“We will continue to monitor further action in Adair County,” he said.
The Kenton County administrator said the RTW ordinance was tabled. “The Fiscal Court will do more research on the issue before making a final decision,” Londrigan said. “Northern Kentucky unionists should continue to monitor the Kenton County Fiscal Court and continue providing them with information and calls in opposition if necessary.”
The Campbell County clerk said in a phone conversion that he doubted “the RTW ordinance will be discussed further” there, Londrigan said. “Again, we need to monitor Campbell County Fiscal Court for any changes and provide information where necessary.”
Meanwhile, Londrigan urged union members to check out Scotty Pulliam’s Jan. 8 letter to the editor in the Louisville Courier-Journal. Pulliam, who is retired, was president of IBEW Local 369 in Louisville.
In addition, Londrigan is asking union members to spread the word that according to the March issue of Site Selection magazine, Kentucky is ranked number one in total projects per capita in 2014 and number six overall in the number of projects. “This is irrefutable evidence that RTW has absolutely no effect when it comes to where businesses locate.
“Thanks to everyone for their continued support and participation in our fight against RTW,”Londrigan said. “Please let us know what you are hearing about RTW in your county and don’t forget that we are would like to pass the Mike Miller Memorial Anti-RTW Resolution in additional counties. So far, Marshall and Magoffin Counties have done so.”
However, this study had a quite peculiar "hole" in the range of options: even though the Keystone East is a Rapid Passenger Rail corridor, electrified and upgraded to 110mph to allow the successful upgrade in frequency and transit speed of the Keystone service between Harrisburg and NYC via Philadelphia ... Rapid Passenger Rail was completely ignored as an option.
This meant that the only speed upgrade that was considered was an Express HSR corridor that was "designed to fail" under the designated criteria, since it would be on a different alignment, and so not pass through the communities between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh currently served by the Keystone West.
While "back of the envelope" calculations suggested that filling in this hole would offer some advantages, it would still give an intercity service requiring operating subsidized for a decade or more.
However, this was all under "status quo" assumptions. What I look at this week is what changes for the Keystone West if we were able to start building out a Steel Interstate system for this country, to shift some of the petroleum-dependent, carbon-emitting pavement-destroying heavy diesel truck long-hail freight onto sustainable powered electrified Rapid Rail Freight. Join me for this much more promising future ... below the fold.
Bluegrass Rural says ratings from a variety of organizations, including business associations, don’t bode well for Rand Paul, Kentucky’s junior senator who is expected to toss his hat in the ring for president tomorrow.
Paul, a first-term Bowling Green Republican, “is getting flunking grades” across the board, according to the Graves County-based, tax exempt advocacy group “whose mission is focused on voter education in rural Kentucky.”
Here are Paul’s scores, as reported by Bluegrass Rural:
Agriculture and Food 2014 American Farm Bureau Federation: 20 percent.
Business 2013-2014 Associated General Contractors of America – Lifetime Scores for Infrastructure: 17 percent. 2013-2014 National Small Business Association: 0 percent. 2013-2014 National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association: 20 percent. 2012 National Electrical Contractors Association: 44 percent. 2011-2012 American Council of Engineering Companies: 44 percent. 2011-2012 National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association: 33 percent.
Law enforcement 2013-2014 National Association of Police Organizations: 45 percent.
Health Care 2013-2014 National Breast Cancer Coalition: 0 percent. 2013 American Public Health Association: 13 percent. 2011 American Nurses Association: 0 percent.
Military Personnel 2011-2012 Center for Security Policy: 29 percent. 2011 Fleet Reserve Association: 0 percent.
Veterans 2014 Disabled American Veterans: 0 percent. 2011 Vietnam Veterans of America: 0 percent.
Paul’s AFL-CIO Legislative Scorecard shows similarly dismal marks. He voted the union position on issues zero percent of the time in 2013 (the last year percentages were tallied) and 4 percent of the time (through 2013). His senate term began in 2011.
Paul and Kentucky’s senior senator, Louisville Republican Mitch McConnell co-sponsored legislation to establish a national “right to work law.” They also favor RTW on the state and county levels.
McConnell, the new senate majority leader, had a 17 percent AFL-CIO rating for 2013; his lifetime rating (through 2013) is 12 percent. McConnell first took office in 1985.
More information about Bluegrass Rural is available by visiting the group’s website. The mailing address is P.O. Box 113, Melber, KY 42069
Yessin is the Kentucky-born, Florida lawyer who is pushing county “right to work” ordinances in his native state.
Stockman, President Ronald Reagan’s budget director, famously ‘fessed up in a 1981 Atlantic Monthly story that Reaganomics was essentially trickle-down economics.
Trickle-down economics caused the Great Depression. Reaganomics caused the country’s deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Supporters of the RTW ordinances vehemently deny their aim is to destroy unions. Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, says a recent Bloomberg News story about Yessin confirms the guy is a union-buster.
“Yessin’s ideas offer conservatives a path forward on anti-union legislation known as ‘right-to-work’ laws,” wrote Josh Eidelson, the story’s author. The article, which is online, is headlined “Rand Paul’s favorite union-buster.”
The Sunshine State attorney has “represented companies in more than 200 conflicts with unions,” Eidelson added.
So far, the Democratic House of Representatives has blocked every attempt by the GOP-majority senate to pass a RTW law. Rep. Jim DeCesare, a leading pro-RTW House Republican, figured his option was just to keep trying, Eidelson wrote.
“Then, at an October fundraiser for Senator Rand Paul in Bowling Green, DeCesare heard about a Tampa lawyer named Brent Yessin. He argues that counties and cities have the right to make labor policy, too. ‘Obviously,’ DeCesare says, ‘we were extremely interested.’”
Elsewhere in the story, Eidelson wrote that Yessin said his “mother crossed picket lines during a teachers’ strike.” He quoted Yessin: “I always tell my clients, ‘Yeah, my mother was a scab.’ ”
Londrigan swiftly responded to the story. "When pro-RTW forces and politicians continuously claim that RTW is not anti-union, the record of their secretly-paid union-busting mouthpiece, Mr. Yessin, exposes that claim as a bold faced lie!” he said in an email to union activists.
Yessin’s perhaps too candid comments to the Bloomberg reporter also reminded me of an old Kentucky expression: “Never let your mouth overload you’re a--.”
Of course, we’re all guilty of excessively taxing our tookuses from time to time. But it looks like Yessin has pulled a Stockman.
In any event, history, the subject I taught in a community college for many years, warns against oversize egos. So does the Bible.
The ancient Greeks considered hubris – excessive pride – to be among the greatest and most perilous of sins. “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” the Good Book admonishes.
Anyway, union members were conspicuous among critics who said Reaganomics – union-busting, deeply cutting taxes for rich people and big corporations and slashing government regulations on business – was a reprise of 1920s "trickle-down” economics as preached and practiced by Presidents Harding, Coolidge and Hoover and GOP-run congresses. (“Silent Cal” Coolidge, who especially despised unions, was a hero to Reagan, the most anti-union president since Hoover.)
When Stockman let the cat out of the bag in the Atlantic story, he confirmed that naysayers to Reaganomics were right.
In any event, big egos usually are accompanied by big mouths. Big problems dog those with big egos. Usually, such woes are self-inflicted.
Stockman survived as budget director until 1985, though he told the press that Reagan took him “to the woodshed” right after he read the Atlantic story. Then, in his 1986 memoir, Stockman admitted that he made up the “woodshed” story at the insistence of top Reagan aides.
Stockman confessed that after he apologized to the president, Reagan told him that he was doing a good job and that the media had victimized him.
It will be interesting to see what RTW backers say about their supposed legal eagle Yessin and the Bloomberg article. I’d bet the farm they’ll keep quiet or they’ll follow their venerated St. Gipper’s lead and blame the media.
“The labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature, spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth," Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. aptly observed.
No doubt he would add “LGBTQ-hater” and “LBGTQ-baiter” if he were alive today.
In Indiana, one of our northern neighbors, right-wing, union-busting Republican Gov. Mike Pence evidently is still happy he signed the “right to work” law his equally right-wing, union-busting, GOP-majority legislature passed in 2012.
But he’s not smiling Mike just now.
Pence is taking a ton of heat – and rightly so – for inking that bill critics say paves the way for legal discrimination against anybody who isn’t heterosexual.
Pence’s detractors say that under the legislation, disingenuously named the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” a business owner can claim “religious freedom” to deny service to persons who are lesbian, gay, bi, transgendered or who are questioning their sexuality.
I wonder. Could that same business owner cite “religious freedom” to turn away a customer like me – a heterosexual – because I pack a union card? After all, a lot of Religious Righties seem to think we union folks have horns, forked tails and are in league with Old Scratch.
"Unions are one of the organizations leading the world to wickedness," said Tim Lahaye, who helped start the Moral Majority. "Christians have a responsibility to submit to the authority of their employers since they are designated as part of God’s plan for the exercise of authority on the earth by man," the Christian Coalition claimed.
There’s still a considerable crossover between the Religious Right and the union-busting right.
Anyway, for cravenly caving to the Religious Right bigots, Pence is getting what he richly deserves: the scorn of a nation. I know the Good Book says we’re not to rejoice in the misfortune of others. Lord forgive this this lifelong Kentuckian and multi-generation Presbyterian. But I am relishing every minute of Pence’s self-inflicted misery.
The governor’s naysayers, by the way, include the Indianapolis Star, which endorsed him for election in 2012. In a now famous front-page editorial, the paper declared:
“We urge Gov. Pence and lawmakers to stop clinging to arguments about whether RFRA really does what critics fear; to stop clinging to ideology or personal preferences; to focus instead on fixing this.”
Meanwhile, Pence criticizes his many critics as “intolerant.” But “that dog won’t hunt,” Jason Linkins and Ryan Grim write in The Huffington Post:
“Protestations of intolerance aside, Pence is fully entitled to believe that gay people are icky, or Godless, or whatever he wants. He just can't -- without criticism -- enshrine the right to discriminate into the law. No one is stopping anyone from having these opinions, coming on television to express that opinion, or even holding office while possessing these views. You just can't have a whites-only lunch counter, or a straights-only bakery. Or, perhaps in Indiana, you can, but if you do, then people who are being discriminated against have a right to encourage people to take their business elsewhere and criticize those business practices. And those on the receiving end of that reaction will, unfortunately, have to tolerate that.”
At the same time he’s criticizing his critics, Pence, a possible GOP presidential contender for next year, is beseeching his allies in the legislature to modify the bill. Whether lawmakers will give him cover and do so remains to be seen.
But I’m proud – though not surprised -- to see union leaders like Indiana State AFL-CIO President Brett Voorhies demanding the repeal of the measure in no uncertain terms. Dr. King would be proud to see it, too.
Bigotry has no place in union ranks. Equality for all is a fundamental principle of organized labor. Dr. King knew that.
He also would have had a message for Gov. Pence – and for union-busters elsewhere, including Kentucky, on right to work. Speaking in 1961, he warned:
"In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as 'right to work.' It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. It is supported by Southern segregationists who are trying to keep us from achieving our civil rights and our right of equal job opportunity.
“Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote."
One of the things I was waiting on last year was delivery of Pennsylvania's feasibility study for improvements on the "Keystone West" corridor. The "Keystone East" corridor connecting Harrisburg and Philadelphia was upgraded in 2006, with an electrified corridor with speeds of up to 110mph providing travel times competitive with driving, especially in the suburban Philadelphia area. So when a "Keystone West" feasibility study was announced, there were high hopes in some quarters that some substantial improvements might be made on the "Keystone West" corridor, connecting Pittsburgh with Harrisburg, currently hosting only the Pennsylvanian between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
A quick review of the Executive Summary reveals that a range of things can be done to improve the Keystone West, which could trim something less than an hour from the current five and a half hour trip to Harrisburg (with a further hour and a half to Philadelphia). It also takes a look at, and quickly dismisses an Express HSR corridor.
But for some reason ... while it considers an option to add a third passenger-only track on the Keystone West, it completely ignores the option of a Rapid Rail speed upgrade on that track ... despite the fact that a Rapid Rail speed upgrade was part of what made the Keystone East project successful. So I'll take a look at this curious hole in the feasibility study, below the fold.
Hopkinsville,Kentucky is not exactly union territory.
But at a fund-raiser in the Christian County seat, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Jack Conway, Kentucky’s attorney general, forthrightly fielded a question about “right to work” from supporter Gail Hardy, a retired Cadiz teacher who still packs a Kentucky Education Association card.
“After his speech, he asked if anyone had any questions,” Hardy said. “I brought up right to work. He expounded on it and said it is not legal for counties to do. He talked about how it lowers salaries and is bad for all workers and for our state.”
The crowd was friendly. But Hardy said she could see “that most of the people there didn’t know much about RTW. It made me think that a lot of folks need an education on unions and what they have done for this country and for families.”
Hardy, a member of KEA’s political action committee, added that she and a friend in Bowling Green talk politics on the phone almost every day. “He thinks that union members need to write lots of letters to the editor about the evils of RTW. He knows that the union members understand it, but says the general public does not.”
Cadiz is the seat of Trigg County, next door to Christian. Union members are relatively few in the two western Kentucky counties that border Tennessee.
“A lot of people who have no ties with unions do believe the lies and anti-union hype that the Republicans have spewed out for years,” Hardy said.
Hardy said right to work is “a slick name. Most people think it must be a good idea, because everyone needs the right to work.
“Instead it is like trickery -- playing a dirty trick on the working class while enabling the business owners and corporations to cut corners, cut salaries, cut benefits and work safety and give the saved income to the owners.”
Sometimes, news release writers have to try to make chicken salad out of chicken you-know-what.
It goes with the job if you’re in PR.
Anyway, a scribe for Florida-based Protect My Check, one of those anti-union groups pushing county “right to work” ordinances in Kentucky, dutifully diced the pecans, grapes and celery and slathered on the mayo in a recent release. But RTW is still chicken you-know-what.
The Boone County fiscal court’s unanimous vote for a county RTW ordinance means that “more than 500,000 Kentuckians are now protected by Right to Work,” the release says.
Counting Boone, 11 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have passed RTW ordinances. That’s about 9 percent.
Five other counties have had first readings on RTW ordinances. Add them in, and you get 13 percent.
Anyway, I guess the author of the release figures “over 500,000 Kentuckians” sounds more impressive than 11 or 16 counties.
Even so, half-a-million or so is about 11 percent of Kentucky’s population of 4.4 million. Maybe the writer should have stuck with counting counties.
Okay, the release is correct when it says that Boone is “the 4th largest county in the Commonwealth” population-wise.
The most populous county is Jefferson (Louisville), followed by Fayette (Lexington) and Kenton (Covington). Kenton is Boone’s next door neighbor.
RTW is not on the radar in either Jefferson or Fayette. Kenton’s fiscal court had a first reading on a RTW ordinance last month, but passage has been delayed.
The release also says that “business leaders and community leaders voiced strong support for the measure” in Boone County. Several union members and others – many of them Boone countians – also came to the fiscal court meeting to oppose to the measure.
Hence, I’d bet the farm that a big chunk of those 500,000 Kentucky citizens “protected by Right to Work” don’t want that “protection.”
The release also quotes a Protect My Check lawyer from Kentucky who “stressed the bi-partisan nature of the votes to support right to work.” Ninety-six percent of Republican and 94 percent of Democratic fiscal court members in the 16 RTW counties “have supported right to work,” the lawyer says.
But at least some of these county officials are having second thoughts.
Nine unions have brought suit in federal court against the Hardin County ordinance. The suit could apply to other ordinances. After a first reading, Oldham voted to table its ordinance. Pulaski, like Kenton, has not moved to the second reading required for approval.
As for the pro-RTW Democrats -- make that “Democrats” -- I’d bet the farm that a hefty majority of them voted for John McCain for president in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. I’d also wager the family spread that Mitch McConnell got most of their votes in last year’s senate race.
“Once you get outside of Washington or Frankfort, it starts being about what’s best for my neighbors, and what do you hear in the check out line, not what do my big donors expect,” the lawyer also says in the release.
By “Washington or Frankfort” and not “being about what’s best for my neighbors,” the lawyer means the president and congressional Democrats and Democratic Kentucky legislators who oppose RTW. (A few Republican state house members are anti-RTW, too.)
“Big donors?” Union-busting groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council – funded big-time by the Koch brothers -- are spending millions of dollars on a national right to work crusade that includes Kentucky.
ALEC, “the Heritage Foundation and…Protect My Check are working together to influence local governments the same way they have influenced state legislatures, and anti-union ordinances are just the first step in the coordinated effort they envision,” The New York Times reports.
Three county judge-executives have written Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan saying they oppose county “right-to-work” ordinances.
“I see the right-to-work legislation as a means to undermine labor unions and lower wages,” wrote Democrat Robert W. Carter of Greenup County.
“Henderson County rejects all efforts to pass a right-to-work ordinance,” wrote Democrat Donald Hugh McCormick. “The right-to-work ordinance undermines labor unions with the intent to lower the wages of hard working Kentuckians.”
Republican Judge David Johnston of Ohio County wrote, “We have no plans or desires to pass a local ordinance, nor to advocate for a state law on the matter.”
Greenup County is in eastern Kentucky. Henderson and Ohio counties are in western Kentucky.
Eleven counties have approved RTW ordinances. Kentucky has 120 counties.
In December, Attorney Gen. Jack Conway issued an official opinion warning that the county RTW measures are unconstitutional. In January, nine unions challenged the Hardin County ordinance in federal court in Louisville. The suit could apply to other ordinances.
Right to work proponents claim the absence of RTW keeps companies away. “I have been in office twenty (20) years and have never had a company to ask about a union problem,” Carpenter wrote. “The unions here, in particular, have been great to work with and they are responsible for us having decent wages in our area.”
Carpenter also agrees with Conway’s opinion. “As the attorney general has said, this is a state legislative issue, not a county issue.”
Among the backers of the county RTW ordinances is Protect My Check, a Florida-based anti-union group. “I strongly condemn current efforts by out-of-state forces to divide labor and management and county against county with the introduction of county right-to-work legislation,” Carpenter wrote.
McCormick told Londrigan that he worked at a coal-fired power plant for 30 years and belonged to IBEW Local 150. He said he “fed and raised my family on union wages.”
Added McCormick: “I believe labor and management should work together toward shared interests and better working relationships. There is room for both union and non-union workers. The right-to-work ordinance, however, is not the avenue to develop common ground for better labor relations."
Johnston wrote that “Unions built ‘Middle Class America,'” and said that “my feelings are well known by our legislators.”
The union-busters would have us believe that a “right to work” tide is sweeping the country.
A trickle is more like it. But you wouldn't know that from the media.
Wisconsin recently was all over the news for becoming the 25th right to work state. But in a USA Today opinion piece, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka pointed out what the media hasn't made as much of: state legislatures in New Hampshire, West Virginia, New Mexico, Maine and Montana turning thumbs down on RTW.
RTW failed in the current session of the Kentucky General Assembly, to boot.
Anyway, the union-busters are one for seven in states this year. In baseball, my favorite sport, that’s a .143 bench-warmer batting average.
In the Bluegrass State, the union-busters have made the news big-time for pushing county RTW ordinances. They bragged that 30 counties would approve local RTW measures by the end of January, Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan recalls.
We’re past the ides of March and only 11 counties have endorsed RTW.
While Boone County, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, just passed an ordinance, adjoining Kenton County tabled a similar proposal. So did Oldham County, near Louisville.
The Kenton and Oldham fiscal courts want to wait and see how a union lawsuit to overturn the Hardin County ordinance comes out. The suit could be expanded to cover other RTW ordinances.
Anyway, Kentucky has 120 counties. Back to the National Pastime: 11 for 120 is a .092 couldn’t-hit-water-if-you-fell-out-of-a-boat batting average.
This old newspaper scribe suggests that the media needs a hefty helping of perspective in reporting on right to work. One Kentucky county -- Marshall -- even unanimously passed an anti-right to work resolution.
The local media barely mentioned Marshall's move and, as far as I can tell, the statewide media ignored it.
In Sunday Trainlast week, I referred to the Bipartisan Majority to Authorize the funding of Amtrak as "Good News". One commentator in the discussion in one of the crossposts pointed out that the news wasn't all that particularly good, since continued funding on this basis over the indefinite future will spell serious trouble for the system as a whole.
Now, as I suggested more than once, the "good news" last week certainly was not unqualified good news ... that is, to say it was "qualified" good news was already taking on board the bad electoral news for Amtrak in the continued Republican House Majority combined with a new Republican Senate Majority, which opened the door to some of the deep, slashing cuts to Amtrak that some on the Republican side have long hoped to make. So the "qualified good news" was that in going for a total defunding of Amtrak, the radical reactionary wing of the Republican party overplayed its hand, opening the way for a majority of House Republicans, along with basically the entire Democratic caucus, to authorize the continued funding of Amtrak at just about the levels that have been in place over the past four years.
But that was set against the bad news of the INDOT refusing to continue the Hoosier State service on the ground of basically not being allowed to have its cake and eat it too ... insisting on acting like the organization putting together a passenger rail service, without being treated as a passenger railway. And so I started thinking about the Hoosier State / Cardinal corridor in the context of, on one hand, the very low bar for "good news" in transport funding with this Congress, versus the tremendous need we have for a massive wave of investment in transport that can be powered by sustainable, renewable energy. And to organize my thinking, I started to sort it out into five levels:
Hillbilly Report uses the SoapBlox format to post and publish articles. SoapBlox isn’t an open source and is hosted by Warecorp and Warecorp has decided it’s no longer profitable to host and maintain the outdated SoapBlox format and they plan to shut it down in the very near future.
We don’t know the exact date SoapBlox will shut down, but when they do we hope to make a smooth change over to a new Wordpress site we are currently designing. Click here to view it.
At this point we’re not sure if we’re going to migrate all of the 5000 articles we’ve posted here. If we decide not to migrate all of the previous articles, we will attempt to make them accessible for those that want to view them.
We hope to make the new site similar to this one. No advertisement, popups or other distractions.
All of that said, I’m not sure how long I’ll continue blogging and will make that decision later this year or early next year. In any event the new site will stay up and those that are interested can sign up to it and post articles.
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work,’” Martin Luther King Jr. warned. “It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.”
Not coincidentally, all 11 ex-Confederate states are right to work states. In the South, right to work has deep racist roots, according to Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, a labor historian and author at Loyola University in Chicago.
The goal of Dixie’s RTW proponents was to help uphold the region’s white supremacist system of Jim Crow segregation, race discrimination and voter suppression, “thereby preserving the agricultural elite’s political and economic power,” she wrote in “Counter-Organizing the Sunbelt: Right-to-Work Campaigns and Anti-Union Conservatism, 1943-1958,” her 2009 Pacific Historical Review article.
She explained that at the end of World War II, the Southern white powers-that-be faced a triple challenge from “a growing industrial class formed out of wartime mobilization, a burgeoning trade union movement, and a new push for racial equality from both African Americans and militant CIO organizers, who believed that the only way to organize was to attack the system of white supremacy that structured the South’s politics, economy, and society.”
Shermer quoted a journalist who wrote that Mississippi plantation owners seemed to despise union organizers as much as they hated foes of segregation: “[W]henever the talk turned to labor unions, the conversation was violent and burdened with hate and fear.”
Indeed, the reactionary Southern aristocracy and its apologists in politics, the pulpit and the press hated and feared unions because in a union everybody is equal.
Shermer wrote in pushing RTW throughout the South, the agricultural elites made common cause with industry owners “who benefitted from the Jim Crow order the planters had created; sharecropping and tenant farming ensured a reservoir of desperate workers who were willing to accept low wages and poor working conditions in Southern mills and factories.”
Shermer wrote that while Southern mill and factory owners also believed that RTW “would provide competitive advantage in industrializing the region and attracting branch plants,” the main “message in the Southern right-to-work campaigns was preserving the Old South’s racial order.”
Indeed, RTW supporters were quick to play the race card. They told whites that if unions “come in you will share the same restroom with Negroes and work side by side with them” and that unionizing “comes right out of Russia and is pure communism and nothing else.”
In the South, the early RTW proponents were white supremacist Democrats. The almost all-white Republican Party, which dominates Dixie politics today, is as fiercely anti-union as the old segregationist Democrats were. Thus, the South remains solidly RTW.
Southern boosters of RTW in the 50’s and 60’s were among those who most vehemently called for resistance to Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark anti-segregation 1954 Supreme Court ruling, and to sweeping federal legislation designed to wipe out the Jim Crow system.
King observed that it was “significant that these ‘right-to-work’ laws are backed by the same reactionary forces which flout the Supreme Court decision on school desegregation” and that “…the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.”
This last week, there was the surprising start to a headline in the Washington Post that began, "GOP House and White House agree on something" ... and that something was: Amtrak funding (and pets on a train).
By SY SLAVIN, Ph.D. Emeritus Director, Kentucky Labor Institute
The 50th anniversary of the Selma March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge needs special attention and commemoration by trade unions. The struggle against racism and for full equality and justice for Afro-Americans and union efforts for economic justice are indivisible.
We need to remember that Martin Luther King was assassinated defending the rights of unionized sanitation workers.
Important labor leaders like Cleveland Robinson of Local 65 of the United Retail and Wholesale Union Workers as well as Walter Reuther, President of the United Auto Workers participated in the march. Rank and file union members were also part of the march.
Attempts to divide the American working class by race, religion, national origin and attacks against immigrants are old techniques used by profit-swollen corporations to prevent united struggles for social justice.
This is amply demonstrated by so called Right to Work legislation to divide union members and thus cripple unions.
The Kentucky Labor Institute commemorates this significant and historic march by joining labor unions in redoubling our efforts in the continuing struggle for full economic and social equality for Afro-Americans.
Union-busters in Kentucky and Wisconsin are traveling different paths to push “right to work.”
In the Bluegrass State, they’re backing county RTW ordinances while claiming their sole aim is promoting local economic development, not union-busting.
In the Dairy State, where the GOP-majority legislature just approved a RTW law, the union-busters are hawking RTW with old-fashioned labor-baiting.
At a Wisconsin legislative hearing, Greg Mourad, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee, took the gloves off.
He asked lawmakers to “Imagine leaving the [Capitol] today, ready to get some food when a cab pulls up. Two guys grab you, throw you into the back of the cab. The driver announces that the cab is on its way to Green Bay. You protest. But the other passengers don't let you out. They pull over in Green Bay, the car stops, they untie you and demand $300."
Mourad said such “is the way that unions in Wisconsin organize, and why the bill [which Republican Gov. Scott Walker is set to sign] should be passed,” reported Jonas Persson of The Center for Media and Democracy.
Founded in 1955, the NRTW committee has never made much of the RTW is good-for-the-economy argument. “We’re not purporting to prove that right-to-work produces superior economic performance,” said NRTWC spokesperson Stanley Greer, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Reed Larson, longtime NRTWC head, despised unions and made no bones about it.
“The union hierarchy, operating on billions of dollars plucked from workers’ paychecks, comprises a political machine unmatched by any other in America—a political machine whose philosophy consistently lines up with the socialist fringe in its assault on the rights of individual citizens to live their lives free of government intervention,” he railed in a 1999 speech.
“Unless we deal with this fundamental injustice, all of the valiant efforts to prevent our country from being engulfed in a flood-tide of leftist social engineering are destined to failure. The special coercive privileges enjoyed by union officials under federal law have enabled them to amass a degree of political power behind their collectivist schemes that no other special interest comes close to matching. Their power to dictate public policy is out of all proportion to the number of persons whose views they truly represent.”
Added Larson, who also belonged to the reactionary John Birch Society, “Whatever your concern, whether it be taxes, education, health care, the economy, or myriad other issues that need addressing, you can be assured that the propagation of the statist, anti-freedom position on each of those issues is being funded largely with union money, essentially seized at gun point from workers.”
Larson isn’t the only RTW heavyweight who has battled bare-knucks against unions, according to Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, a labor historian and author at Loyola University of Chicago. “It’s almost as if we were living in pre-war Germany,” she quoted from a pro-RTW Arizona radio ad from 1946. “These despotic little labor racketeers, the would-be Hitlers, must be crushed now -- once and for all -- before it’s too late.”
Shermer also cited Republican RTW backer Barry Goldwater, the Arizona senator who ran for president in 1964. She said that during the Depression, he wrote editorials in The Phoenix Gazette denouncing President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, “for turn[ing] over to the racketeering practices of ill-organized unions the future of the working man.”
In the South, where every ex-Confederate state is a RTW state, some of the most ardent early RTW supporters were white supremacist Democrats who hated and feared unions because in a union everybody is equal. (The mostly white GOP, which now dominates Dixie politics, is as rabidly anti-union as the segregationist Democrats were.)
The powers-that-be in Jim Crow Dixie often equated unions with carpetbaggers and communists. “This outside influence is just a bunch of pot-bellied Yankees with big cigars in their mouths and the dues they collect will just go up North,” Shermer quoted a Southern pro-RTW handbill introduced into The Congressional Record in 1953. “If they come in, you will share the same restroom with Negroes and work side by side with them. It comes right out of Russia and is pure communism and nothing else.”
State right to work laws are legal under the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. The measure’s sponsors, Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio and Rep. Fred Hartley of New Jersey, were fiercely anti-union Republicans.
Taft-Hartley was designed to curb gains unions had made during the New Deal, notably the 1935 Wagner Act, which established the fundamental right of workers to organize unions and bargain collectively.
Taft said the Wagner Act left business owners “practically at the mercy of unions.”
Hartley called the landmark legislation “ill-conceived and disastrously executed.” He also charged that, “During the New Deal, labor unions were coddled, nursed, and pampered.”
He was proud that Taft-Hartley “wiped out, in a single enactment, the main legal prop supporting a national labor policy which had existed for twelve years.”
The Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club opposes the large increases in the fixed monthly charges for residential customers that LG&E and KU have proposed in a filing under consideration by the KY Public Service Commission. We believe that raising this fixed fee by 67% (from $10.75 to $18 per month) will have undesirable effects, including:
People that consume less electricity will be charged a larger share of the collective rate pie, putting more of a burden on those who can least afford the higher fixed costs. LG&E/KU’s proposal raises revenue at the expense of some of its most vulnerable customers
Incentives for energy efficiency will be reduced because the high base rate will mean that the electricity consumed will be a smaller proportion of the bill. Further, LG&E proposes a lower per kwh rate (a reduction of 0.458 cents/kwh), which will also encourage higher consumption, because large users will incur lower charges.
he higher monthly fixed charge will become a barrier for homeowners who wish to invest in sustainable systems such as solar or wind, as it makes the financing less attractive.
We believe that this LG&E/KU proposal will discourage the growth of clean energy industries—like solar and energy efficiency—just when Kentucky badly needs the jobs from those promising industries. Surrounding states have seen a large increase in clean energy jobs in recent years but Kentucky has not because of outdated and regressive energy policies. Moreover, the effects of climate disruption (heat waves, ice storms, polar vortexes) are already affecting Kentuckians. We should be encouraging efficiency and clean renewable energy, not creating barriers to consumer choice and job creation. Furthermore, we should not be shifting costs from rich people and people that use energy irresponsibly onto poor people and onto those who are more efficient and responsible consumers.
We therefore resolve that policies that discourage efficiency and clean energy and increase the burden on poor people should be rejected, and call upon the PSC to deny the utilities’ request for raising the fixed monthly connection fee for homeowners.
Marshall County Judge/Executive Chyrill Miller hopes the anti-right to work resolution her fiscal court unanimously approved will help persuade officials in other counties to reject local right to work ordinances.
“A lot of judges, commissioners and magistrates don’t really understand what right to work is all about and that’s lower wages and fewer benefits,” Miller said. “It is not about anybody’s right to work.”
“The Marshall County Judge/Executive Mike Miller Memorial Anti-Right-to Work Resolution” was drafted by Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan and Howard “Bubba” Dawes Jr., a Marshall countian and member of the state AFL-CIO COPE Committee. They hope other fiscal courts will endorse the resolution.
Miller died unexpectedly in December at age 70. Elected in in 1974, he won an 11th four-year term last November. He was the longest serving county judge/executive in Kentucky.
“Unions always strongly supported him and he strongly supported them,” Miller’s widow said. “He always felt that union support was not just something that he needed. It was what he wanted.”
In January, Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Chyrill Miller to serve until the first business day after New Year’s Day. Voters will elect a new judge/executive in November.
“I have always been in favor of unions, too,” Miller said. “Unions get people what they need and not what somebody thinks they should have.”
Her late husband was a well-known raconteur and storyteller whose wit and good humor invited comparison to Vice President Alben Barkley and Sen. Wendell Ford, devout Democrats like both Judge Millers.
“Unlike Mike, I am a person of few words,” the new Judge Miller said with a chuckle. “But I won’t back up from that resolution for anyone.”
Neither, she said, will any of the three commissioners who she joined in voting “aye:” Johnny Bowlin, Dr. Rick Cocke and Bob Gold. “They are all union supporters, too,” she said.
Marshall County – its seat is Benton – is home to several union locals, most of them at chemical plants and a steel mill in Calvert City.
Since December, 13 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have approved RTW ordinances or have had first readings on the measures.
In December, Attorney Gen. Jack Conway issued an official opinion warning that the ordinances are unconstitutional. The opinion said that under federal labor law, only states and territories can pass right to work laws.
In January, nine unions filed suit in federal court in Louisville challenging the Hardin County ordinance. But the suit can be broadened to cover other county RTW ordinances.
A seventh Kentucky county has passed a “right-to-work” measure, but the union-busters won’t like this one.
The Marshall County Fiscal Court braved a 7-inch snowfall, 5-degree temperatures and slick streets to meet this morning at the courthouse in Benton and unanimously approve an anti-right-to-work resolution.
The first order of business, the measure strongly condemns “current efforts by out-of-state forces to divide labor and management and county against county with the introduction of county right-to-work ordinances.”
The resolution was named in honor of the late Marshall County Judge/Executive Mike Miller. The longest serving county judge/executive in Kentucky, he died unexpectedly in December at age 70.
Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan and Marshall County resident Howard “Bubba” Dawes Jr., a member of the state AFL-CIO COPE Committee, wrote the resolution.
“I can’t think of any higher honor they could give Mike than this resolution,” said Judge/Executive Chyrill Miller, who took over for her husband. “He would be thrilled with it.”
She is a staunch Democrat like her late husband.
Miller said her spouse wouldn’t have been pleased with Democratic magistrates who have joined Republicans in passing county right-to-work ordinances.
"Mike would be thinking, ‘What are they thinking?’” Miller said.
All three Marshall magistrates are Democrats.
Miller asked Dawes, who chairs the county Democratic Party, to read the “Marshall County Judge/Executive Mike Miller Memorial Anti-Right-to-Work Resolution" to the court. “I know he would be very honored,” Miller said of her husband after the vote.
Dawes, also directing business representative of Calvert City-based International Association of Machinists District Lodge 154 in Calvert City, near Benton, said he and Londrigan drafted the resolution “to counter those counties that have taken it upon themselves to pass illegal right-to-work ordinances.”
Dawes suggested that the pro-right-to-work Democratic county officials “should go back and look at the Democratic platform and decide what they believe in. The Democratic Party has always supported working people. These right-to-work ordinances do not support working people.”
The resolution concluded, “…Marshall County Fiscal Court does hereby honor the life and dedication of…Mike Miller to the citizens and workers of Kentucky by rejecting any and all efforts to pass a right-to-work ordinance in Marshall County.”
Miller was elected in 1974 and reelected to an 11th term in November. In January, Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Miller’s widow to replace him until voters can elect a new judge/executive in November.
“Hurrah for our last legislature! They have acted nobly in the present crisis,” the Daily Louisville Democrat cheered when in February, 1861, the pro-Union General Assembly courageously refused to put Kentucky in the Confederacy.
Permit this retired community college history teacher who still packs a union card to shout “hurrah!” for the House Labor and Industry Committee for “acting nobly” in another crisis: the GOP’s holy war against organized labor.
Just as a majority of Kentucky lawmakers stood by the Federal Union 154 years ago (my Civil War ancestor was a private who rode with Gen. William T. Sherman through Georgia in the 12th Kentucky Cavalry), Middlesboro Democratic Rep. Rick Nelson’s panel stood by labor unions Thursday morning.
By a wide margin, the committee turned thumbs down on a “right to work” bill and on legislation to repeal the prevailing wage law.
Both measures passed the pro-right to work and anti-prevailing wage GOP-majority Senate.
Scores of union members and union supporters from across the state rallied in Frankfort for the RTW and prevailing wage hearing. They hurrahed when the committee, as expected, rejected both bills.
Oh, the union-busters brought their patent medicine show to the capital city and displayed their wizard oil. Drink deeply of it, they claimed, and RTW will make Kentucky’s economy soar to the heavens. As usual, the RTW hucksters were long on palaver and short on proof.
A RTW booster reminds me of an old-time horse trader. The fellow was happy to show you his teeth, but not the nag’s.
Oh, a RTW sales associate from Warren County vowed his neck of the woods had received “20 new project inquiries that would create 2,500 jobs since its county government approved a right-to-work ordinance in December,” reported Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
True to form for his side, the RTW scammer evidently failed to mention what companies made the queries.
Joe Brennan, director of the Louisville-based Kentucky Labor Institute, was at the hearing and he compared the RTW proponent's remarks to nibbles on a fishing line. "Any fisherman will tell you that nibbles don't count until the fish are actually landed and in the boat."
Anyway, State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan and Caitlin Lally, communications director for Louisville-based UFCW Local 227, teamed up to skillfully parry the thrusts from the RTW and anti-prevailing wage folks.
Lally said the number of jobs in Oklahoma has shrunk by one-third since the Sooner State legislature passed a RTW law in 2001, according to the H-L.
Nelson “said the state Economic Development Cabinet told him that no company has ever refused to move into Kentucky because it didn't have a right-to-work law,” Brammer wrote.
On the prevailing wage debate, the most memorable verbal swordplay I read about came in a duel between Tom Shelton, head of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, and Rep. Dennis Horlander, D-Louisville.
Shelton is a former Fayette County school chief. He said getting rid of the prevailing wage “would save school districts money that could be used for additional projects,” Brammer wrote.
Would “additional projects” include fattening a super’s paycheck?
Anyway, Horlander was ready with a riposte. He advised Shelton that “no one in his district ever asks him about Kentucky's prevailing wage law, but he does get questions about school superintendent salaries,” Brammer reported.
Thursday was a chilly day around my old Kentucky home down in the Jackson Purchase. I suspect it was frigid in Frankfort, too.
But Horlander’s rejoinder especially warmed the heart of this long-in-the-tooth, out-to-pasture prof, and doubtless any AFT or KEA folks who happened to be at the hearing. (I also carry a KEA retiree’s card.)
The guy who heads the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce claims a lot of companies are shunning Kentucky because it’s not a right to work state.
In an op-ed piece published recently in the Lexington Herald Leader, chamber President-CEO Brad Richardson wrote, “Site Selection magazine ranked Kentucky's business climate eighth in the nation.”
Eight out of 50 states looks pretty good in my book.
Anyway, Richardson also wrote, “I've been in too many meetings over the past 25 years where Kentucky lost out because a company would not consider a non-right-to-work state.”
Richardson didn’t say which companies gave Kentucky a pass.
“A number of opponents have asked me to name one of these companies, but the site selection process demands confidentiality,” he added. “Economic development professionals know that discussing a company damages their credibility as well as the area they represent.”
I’m not for a minute claiming Richardson is fibbing. Nor would I deny him the right to his opinion.
But let’s say a top union official wrote, “I’ve been in many meetings over the past 25 years where Kentucky won because a company would not consider a right-to-work state.”
I can imagine the hue and cry from the RTW side. They’d hop up and down demanding proof of such a sweeping statement.
They’d blow fuses if the union official wrote, “I can't name any companies because the site selection process demands confidentiality.”
Hardin is one of six Kentucky counties that have passed right to work ordinances. Nine unions sued the county in federal court in Louisville. But the suit could be broadened to include other counties.
Just because the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council agreed to consider a right to work ordinance doesn’t mean approval is in the offing.
The council on Tuesday voted voted 8-5 to refer a RTW ordinance to the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee.
“But I am convinced that several council members opposed to the so-called right to work voted in favor of sending it to committee because they felt, in the spirit of open-mindedness, it should be given a hearing,” said council member Jake Gibbs, a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360 and a professor at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, where is also the ombudsman.
“I do not believe something so blatantly anti-worker, hidden behind a euphemism, warrants consideration and, therefore, was one of the 5 opposed,” said Gibbs, who is the AFT campus representative at BCTC. “I don't think the proposal will become law in Fayette County."
In the vote, which came at a work session, one council member abstained and another was absent.
So far, five Kentucky counties have passed RTW ordinances and three more have approved such measures on first reading. Kentucky has 120 counties.
Nine unions have challenged the Hardin County RTW ordinance in federal court in Louisville. But the suit could be expanded to cover other RTW measures.
In addition, Attorney Gen. Jack Conway issued an opinion that the RTW ordinances are unconstitutional.
One of my union brothers could hardly believe that Sen. Mitch McConnell’s bogus “Election Violation Notice” collected a quintet of awards from Campaigns and Elections magazine, including “best direct mail piece for 2014.”
The mailer's purpose was to scare supporters of Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell's opponent. It was a deliberate deception designed to make recipients think they were somehow breaking the law. Inside, it listed “fraudulent information” being spread by “the federal candidate” Grimes.
“Advertising is legalized lying,” H.G. Wells famously observed. That goes double for political advertising.
Of course, politicians pay campaign advertising firms handsomely for crafting hit pieces like Team Mitch’s mailer, which looked like it came from the government.
“It’s not if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” we dutifully tell our kids in little league.
In grownup politics, winning is all that counts. If you have to lie and cheat, so be it. If you’re a gun-for-hire in political advertising, the better you are at lying and cheating, the more awards you win.
The McConnell ad, a joint venture with the Kentucky Republican Party, claimed five Reed Awards. I gather they’re Oscars for political ads judged to be the most effective, campaigns, no matter how contemptible the ads are.
Virtue may be its own reward elsewhere. Gutter politics wins the prizes atCampaign and Elections. “Best mail piece for a bare-knuckled street fight” was one of the categories the McConnell mailer won. Just the category’s name speaks volumes about the state of American politics.
But why stop with honors for cheating and playing dirty in politics?
Why not hand out trophies for the best bean baller in baseball or, in football, for players who put the most opposing players out of the game with cheap shots?
But, hey, Kentucky is a basketball state. So how about giving trophies for shoving the most players into the seats while they go airborne for a layup?
Anyway, McConnell’s mailer came in an official-looking envelope with a Frankfort return address. The piece warned the recipient: “THE INFORMATION ENCLOSED CONTAINS FACTS RELATED TO A POSSIBLE FRAUD BEING PERPETRATED ON CITIZENS ACROSS KENTUCKY.”
Jonathan Hurst, Grimes’ campaign manager, called the mailer “despicable” and a blatant attempt at voter suppression.
That it was.
But I’d bet the farm that Hurst’s complaint – and Grimes’ vain attempt to stop the mailer in court -- triggered high fives and gales of laughter on Team Mitch, whose guy beat Grimes by more than 15 percentage points.
Okay, throughout American history, truth has often been the first casualty in political campaigns, no matter the era or the party.
Supporters of Federalist President John Adams shrieked that if the “infidel” Democratic Republican Thomas Jefferson were elected president in 1800, "murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced.”
The Jeffersonians shot back that Adams sent a U.S. Navy ship to England to procure two prostitutes, one for himself and the other for his running mate.
However, as far as I can tell, there were no awards for such falsehoods spread by party hacks and by the partisan press in early America.
In any event, it is too bad that McConnell seems to have learned nothing about politics from his purported mentor, Sen. John Sherman Cooper. In his salad days, McConnell was a Cooper intern.
Cooper, a moderate to liberal Republican, eschewed “bare-knuckled street fight” politics, even in the 1954 senate race, probably the toughest battle of his political career. His foe was the formidable Alben Barkley, a former senate majority leader Harry Truman’s vice president.
In his campaign, the senator “…wouldn’t permit the use of rumored contract scandals against Barkley,” Robert Schulman quoted Cooper’s sister in John Sherman Cooper: The Global Kentuckian.
You can’t bet the farm McConnell would have blown a bundle on ads elevating even the most baseless of rumors to “fact.”
Cooper fought fairly and lost. I can almost hear the “nice guys finish last” sneer from Team Mitch.
Even so, Cooper bounced back. He won reelection in 1956 and stayed in the Senate until 1973. Dubbed “the Global Kentuckian,” Cooper was also a diplomat, serving as U.S. ambassador to India in 1955-1956 and to East Germany in 1974-1976.
Above all, Cooper was a principled politician. His refusal to demonize and smear his political foes is a big part of his legacy. He died in 1991 and went down in history as a statesman in the truest sense of the word.
I doubt history will be as kind to McConnell, and rightly so.
“John Sherman Cooper would be appalled at Mitch McConnell,” said Dr. Duane Bolin, a Murray State University historian and author. “McConnell’s bottom line is simply to stay in office and enrich himself and the billionaires who support him. I don’t think he believes in anything.”
Shortly before I talked to my union brother, I got an email from another one of my friends, a university librarian-historian. He had seen the KET interview with McConnell at Ashland, Sen. Henry Clay’s preserved Lexington home.
A 19th century state legislator, congressman, senator, secretary of state, three time presidential candidate and broker of three compromises to save the Union, Clay is Kentucky’s greatest ever statesman. (President Abraham Lincoln is our greatest native son, but he made his political splash in Illinois.)
“Mitch was bragging about his historical knowledge of Henry Clay and the great respect he had for the man and his politics,” my buddy wrote. “I could only chuckle - the Great Divider commenting on the Great Compromiser.”
Remember those boasts by union-busters that right work ordinances would be on the books in 25 percent of Kentucky counties by Jan. 31?
Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan does.
“If you recall, when the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, the Bluegrass Institute, ALEC and all the rest began their crusade for illegal county RTW ordinances, they predicted that they would pass in 30 counties.”
Kentucky has 120 counties.
“Well, today is the last day of January, and unless they perform a miracle, they have fallen well short of their goal,” Londrigan added.
So far, only Warren, Simpson, Fulton, Todd and Hardin and Whitley counties have passed RTW ordinances. Cumberland, Logan and Whitley counties have approved RTW measures on first reading.
All but Warren and Hardin counties border Tennessee, a right to work state.
Londrigan calls the counties on the state line “low hanging fruit,” adding that “counties that border Tennessee and seem to be much more susceptible to RTW proponents’ lies about how they would get all those jobs from employers that are purportedly setting up shop just on the other side of the Tennessee border as if they were maquiladoras along the Mexican border.”
Londrigan credited union members and union supporters across the state with stalling the RTW drive. “Counties the RTW supporters assumed would jump on board have suddenly backed off.”
Londrigan said two other factors helped slow the RTW push: a suit that nine unions filed in federal court in Louisville against the Hardin County ordinance -- which could be applied to other RTW ordinances -- and an official opinion from Attorney Gen. Jack Conway that county RTW ordinances are unconstitutional.
In addition, he credited state AFL-CIO mailings to county judge-executives and county attorneys, plus “press work, testimony and demonstrations that have sent a strong message to the counties that organized labor will be fighting this plague in every corner of the commonwealth.”
He said the list of counties where RTW has fizzled is growing. Londrigan pointed to Clark, Pulaski and Bullitt counties.
The Clark fiscal court discussed RTW but did not vote on the issue. “Over 50 union members attended the meeting and testimony was presented and information was distributed to the magistrates and the county judge-executive. They do not plan on scheduling a vote on a RTW ordinance.”
In Pulaski, the pro-RTW judge-executive evidently doesn’t have the votes to get an ordinance passed, according to Londrigan. “Several of the magistrates are retired union members and have helped push back against the new county judge-executive who reported at the last meeting that Pulaski County had actually hired the union-buster Brent Yessin to represent the county.”
A Kentucky native, Yessin is an anti-union lawyer who is on the board of advisors for Protect My Check, a Florida-based union-busting group that has promised to pay legal bills for fiscal courts sued over RTW ordinances.
“We are not taking it as a given that RTW will not be brought back,” Londrigan said. “But for now, it looks like Pulaski County will not be able to pass an illegal RTW ordinance.”
Londrigan also said that union members met with officials in Bullitt County. “The county judge-executive assured them that Bullitt County is not going to even have a hearing on a RTW ordinance.”
Too, the Daviess County judge-executive assured union members that his county is not interested in in a hearing on RTW, Londrigan said.
A second reading on the Logan RTW ordinance is set for Feb. 24. Cumberland County is expected to take up a second reading soon.
“We are gathering information about these counties in terms of timing, union contacts, political composition and the backgrounds of each magistrate,” Londrigan said. “Once we have definitively determined the dates, times and locations when these will be brought back up for a second reading, we will make the appropriate plans and take appropriate action to have local folks and others to contact the magistrates, share information with them, present testimony about RTW and turn out unionists for these meeting.”
Londrigan said it is a challenge keeping up with what RTW proponents are doing in a state with so many counties. “This is where union members come in. We need them to provide us feedback and information about what is going on in their counties so we can have a better picture of the local situation and act accordingly.
“We have put together a team that will be devoting much of their time to helping us to get out in front of the right-wing crusade to pass RTW in counties, and they will be coordinating with other unions in each area. It is extremely important that we stay engaged so that we have the necessary information to defeat this anti-worker, anti-union onslaught.”
Londrigan said he is grateful to union members “who have attended hearings, demonstrated, written op-eds and mobilized and informed your neighbors about RTW.
“I am certainly proud of the Kentucky labor movement and I think the proof of the success of our recently jump-started efforts is the failure of RTW proponents to achieve their goals, the number of counties that have committed to not introducing an illegal RTW ordinance and the positive response we have received from elected representatives and union members and the public.
“Please keep up the hard work and let’s make sure we let them know that the Kentucky labor movement isn’t going to roll over for them and that we are never going to stop fighting for economic, political and social justice.”
Londrigan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By JEFF WIGGINS President, Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council and USW Local 9447
“Most of the arguments against right-to-work have little basis in fact,” James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation claimed in a story recently published in the several Kentucky newspapers.
His arguments for right-to-work have no basis in fact.
In his article, Sherk cited several “myths” about right-to-work and then he purported to provide us with “facts.” His “facts” are myths.
For example, he wrote, “Myth: Right-to-work laws prohibit unions.” Sherk was obviously implying that unions make such claims. I don’t know of anybody in any union who has ever said that right-to-work laws forbid unions.
Sherk also wrote that it is a “myth” that RTW laws harm unions, that they allow workers to enjoy a “free ride” and that they lower wages. He is wrong on all three counts.
RTW laws are calculated to undermine unions by enabling employees at a unionized workplace to receive union won wages and benefits without joining the union or paying the union a service fee. The idea is to discourage workers from joining unions, thereby weakening and ultimately destroying unions.
Not coincidentally, the states with the lowest percentages of union membership are right to work states. Nor it is a coincidence that they are among the poorest states in the Union.
Mississippi and Arkansas are prime examples. Few states have higher poverty rates than Mississippi and Arkansas, which have had RTW laws for years.
The term “right-to-work” is a deliberate deception. “Right-to-freeload” accurately describes these laws. Federal law requires unions to represent the non-union employees the same as they represent union employees.
In addition, the Heritage Foundation writer’s “facts” included the claim that unions often spend little money representing their members. Last year my union, United Steelworkers Local 9447 in Calvert City, spent $94,000 of the $120,000 we took in negotiating contracts for three of our units.
Sherk would have readers of his article believe that union dues mostly go to pay big salaries for what people like him call “union bosses” or “union fat cats.” But here’s another fact for Sherk: Every penny that a union spends is subject to a vote of the membership. The membership sets the salaries for all union officers, right up to international presidents.
He also says it is a “myth” that RTW laws don’t bring jobs into a state. He says it is a “fact” that “companies consider RTW laws a major factor when deciding where to locate.”
Michigan and Indiana, the latest states to pass RTW laws, have not seen the surge in jobs right to work proponents claimed would automatically happen. On average, salaries in non-right-to-work states are still higher than in right-to-work states.
Also, many people who are involved in recruiting industries, or who are authorities on the topic, say RTW is not a major factor in determining where a company moves. In opposing Todd County’s proposed RTW ordinance, County Attorney Harold Mac Johns told Hopkinsville radio WHOP, “What I’ve learned in industrial recruitment is location, availability of labor, transportation, availability -- site availability -- is much more important and we’ve never -- and I’ve been around the industrial foundation for almost 30 years -- and no one’s ever brought it (right-to-work) up when I’ve been present.”
Others say essentially the same thing. “In the grand scheme of things in Western Kentucky, right to work is low in significance in hindering job creation,” said Chad Chancellor, former chief executive officer of the Greater Paducah Economic Development Council.
“…RTW laws were found to have no statistically significant impact in explaining Kentucky’s lagging economic growth rate,” said a report issued by the Center for Business and Economic Research of the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics.
“Right-to-work laws are a welcome mat for companies who care most about low-wage, unskilled labor and who are committed to a region only until they are able to relocate to someplace where the laws protecting workers are even weaker,” said Dr. Ann Markusen, director of the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at the University of Minnesota.
“Low road companies do care about right-to-work laws, because their primary concern is minimizing the cost of labor,” said Wim Wiewel, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Baltimore, and formerly dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Here’s another quote Mr. Sherk might find interesting: “We’re not purporting to prove that right-to-work produces superior economic performance.” That quote is from Stanley Greer, newsletter editor and spokesperson for the National Right to Work Committee.
Finally, Sherk cited polls he said prove most people favor RTW laws. But the only poll that counts is the one on election day. Last fall, Republican House candidates across the state ran on a promise to pass a right-to-work law if the GOP flipped the Democratic House.
Republican candidates gave speech after speech in favor of right to work. They called for right-to-work in their campaign literature and in their radio and TV commercials. In the end, the Democrats held their 54-46 House majority.
Here’s the bottom line. Right-to-work laws are among the oldest union-busting tools around. All right-to-work laws guarantee is the right to work for less.
Bill Londrigan couldn’t be happier that Alison Lundergan Grimes tossed her hat in the ring for reelection as secretary of state.
“We applaud Alison’s decision,” said Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president. “She has done a wonderful job in that office.”
Grimes announced her candidacy today in Lexington. Afterwards, she traveled to Frankfort and filed.
Added Londrigan: “She has brought greater access to the ballot for Kentuckians in the military serving overseas. She has brought a new energy and effectiveness to the office of secretary of state.”
Londrigan also said that Grimes "has a bright political future ahead of her. She will continue to be motivated by her commitment and dedication to the people of Kentucky.”
The state AFL-CIO endorsed Grimes, a Democrat, when she ran for secretary of state in 2011 and for the U.S. senate last year. Besides Grimes, Charles Lovett of Louisville is the only Democrat to file for secretary of state in the May 19 primary.
Two Republicans have filed for the GOP primary: Stephen L. Knipper of Independence and Michael Pitzer of Louisville.
The filing deadline for the primary is tomorrow at 4 p.m., Frankfort time. The general election is Nov. 3.
The ardently anti-union National Right to Work Committee has been cool to the county right to work crusade.
Now the Washington-based NRTWC has its national and state executive directors scurrying across Kentucky trying to drum up “grassroots support for a state right-to-work law,” according to a recent story in the Bowling Green Daily News.
The duo is worried that the courts will overturn the county ordinances. Thus, they argue, a state RTW law is the only way to go, the story said.
Not surprisingly the union-busters called at Bowling Green, the seat of Warren County, which, in December, became the first county to pass a RTW ordinance. The BG News editorialized in favor of the idea.
The NRTWC national flack claimed the county “ordinances show grassroots support in different areas of the state for a right-to-work law.”
Politicians and proponents of various issues always seem to say they have an abundance of “grassroots support.”
Kentucky has 120 counties. So far, only about six have passed right to work statutes. The newspaper story also said the Kentucky NRTWC head “agreed that passing a county ordinance could lead to a legal battle.” Battle has been joined.
Nine unions have filed suit in federal court in Louisville against Hardin County’s RTW ordinance. The suit could be expanded to cover other county RTW measures.
In addition, the newspaper story said the RTW bill the GOP-majority state Senate fast tracked to passage the other day “is expected to struggle in the Democratic-controlled House.”
Kids will stop shooting hoops in Kentucky before this House passes the Senate bill.
Yet, according to the BG News story, the RTW tandem insisted they “have had a lot of success talking to people who are interested in supporting a right-to-work law.”
The people who voted last Nov. 4 showed a decided disdain for RTW. From Paducah to Pikeville, a host of Republican House candidates promised to make Kentucky a right to work state if the GOP won control of the legislature’s lower chamber.
The Democrats held their 54-46 majority.
Meanwhile, another out-of-state anti-union group is in Kentucky, albeit crooning a different tune on RTW. The Florida-based Protect my Paycheck organization vows the county right to work ordinances are constitutional. PMP promises to foot the legal bills for fiscal courts sued because they approved RTW measures.
While the voters clearly turned thumbs down on RTW last November, it will be interesting to see what local electorates will make of their county officials who passed these RTW ordinances, especially when the courts strike them down. It will be doubly intriguing if counties end up having the pay the court costs, to boot.
There’s nothing like squandering time and taxpayer dollars merely to make political statements to rile the average John and Jane Q Citizen in Kentucky, or any place else for that matter.
Washington seems to be so far away from Democracy as to warrant it being closed down. Congress blames the President for abuse of power by trying to do something about 12 million or so illegals. This is just one instance of the impasses when the Congress sat on its hands rather than act on our Nation’s problems. Infrastructure repairs are needed to maintain first class operations in business and keep people alive and provide jobs, it awaits a bunch we pay to watch after our Nation. Politics to the absurd.
Most eighth grade civic students know the power to make treaties rests with the President, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. When the Speaker of the House fails to read the Constitution, plans to give foreign President Netanyahu the equivalent of a seat in the United States House of Representatives by invitation, to speak about a treaty, he has forfeited all right to criticize any official’s perceived abuse of power. Talk about hypocrisy! Who speaks next? Putin?
Union members aren’t the only folks who suggest the GOP’s right to work crusade cost them the state House of Representatives last fall.
In a recent Louisville Courier-Journal guest column, Bob Heleringer, a former Republican state representative from Jefferson County, said RTW helped dash GOP hopes of flipping the House.
“The coup de grace may have been Mark It Red's ill-advised decision to inject the volatile Right to Work issue into nearly every district where it was running the show,” he wrote.
Mark It Red is an Indianapolis-based consulting firm the Kentucky Republican Party hired to help the GOP take the House, where the Democrats had a 54-46 majority going into the election – and held it.
Mark It Red said right to work was the way to go.
“Reluctant candidates who questioned this approach were assured that internal polling (done by the same firm (objectivity, s'il vous plait?) showed ‘60 percent or better’ support for this white-hot button issue. Au contraire! Instead, it angered many voters in indisputably conservative areas but who nonetheless regard a union membership (or that of a family member) as an indispensable part of their economic security.”
Heleringer lamented: “Despite a promise to run individual races tailored to the unique issues of each district, Mark It Red, for the crucial stretch drive, crafted a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter campaign that looked the same in Paducah as it did in Owensboro as it did in Bullitt County as it did in Jessamine County — all losses, by the way, despite Mitch McConnell and other GOP local candidates in those areas winning, some in landslides.”
In Paducah, Randy Bridges, the Republican who ran against Democratic State Rep. Gerald Watkins, was so gung-ho for right to work that he hopped on the speaker’s stand and touted it before a mostly union crowd at the city’s Labor Day picnic.
His remarks received a combination of boos and stunned silence.
“Unions had already endorsed me,” Watkins said. “But what my opponent said really galvanized the unions. Their support was the key to my victory.”
Emcee Larry Sanderson, a retired UA international representative, said it was tough keeping quiet during Bridges’ speech. But the Republican's support for right to work fired Sanderson up to organize a regional labor rally in support of Watkins and other union-endorsed House candidates from western Kentucky.
The rally at Carson Park fairgrounds in Paducah drew at least 2,500 people, most of them union members and their families – some of whom got up early and rode buses 200-plus miles from Louisville.
Though Sen. Mitch McConnell beat Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes by 7,781 votes in McCracken County, of which Paducah is the seat, Watkins beat Bridges by 965 votes.
Bridges ran hard on RTW.
“There was no doubt that he is for right to work and that I am against it,” Watkins said. “I never have thought that right to work is as popular as the Republicans think it is.”
Anyway, I haven’t seen the RTW question on the Mark It Red poll. I suspected the query was carefully crafted to get the consultants the answer they wanted.
Admittedly, a pre-election Survey USA Bluegrass Poll did have 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?”
That question was misleading, but I suspect unintentionally. A lot of people get right to work wrong.
To be sure, I wouldn’t for a minute question the integrity of the Survey USA poll or of its sponsors: the Louisville Courier-Journal, Louisville WAVE-TV, theLexington 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 or a service fee to the union?"
A right to work law enables such freeloading.
In any event, Heleringer also wrote that “Many Republican candidates, both among those who lost as well as a few that won, are still questioning the decision by the state Republican Party and the House leadership in early 2014 to hire…Mark It Red.”
But there is no question that right to work laws are some of the oldest union-busting tools around. They are designed to weaken large unions, destroy small unions and encourage workers not to join unions.
Meanwhile, at the county level, it looks like some judges and magistrates are starting to balk at the largely Republican-led push for local RTW ordinances. That seems especially so since Attorney Gen. Jack Conway issued an opinion that such measures are unconstitutional and also since nine unions filed suit against the Hardin County RTW ordinance in federal court – legal action that can be broadened to cover such measures approved in other counties.
Nonetheless, back at Frankfort, where the Republicans have been pushing a state RTW law for years and failing to get one, the GOP-majority senate fast tracked yet another RTW bill knowing that the hogs will fly before the Democratic-majority House passes it.
RTW has become the Bluegrass State union-busters' Moby Dick. But the voters showed pretty clearly last Nov. 4 that they don't care to jump in the whaleboat with crazy Capt. Ahab and get dragged down to Davy Jones' locker with him.
The Kentucky State AFL-CIO today endorsed Attorney Gen. Jack Conway for governor.
“Jack is truly committed to helping Kentucky’s hard working men and women improve their living standards and working conditions and he understands the struggles that workers face in this difficult economy,” said a statement from Bill Londrigan, state AFL-CIO president.
“As Attorney General Jack has demonstrated his willingness to stand up for working Kentuckians when they are victimized by unscrupulous employers, predatory lenders and scam artists. Our members and affiliates who live and work in every county across Kentucky thank Jack for his solid support and willingness to take on those that want to turn back the clock on Kentucky’s workers and their families.”
Added Londrigan: “Jack has committed to continuing his advocacy, energy and ideas that benefit those that work every day to move Kentucky forward by improving our economy, educational opportunities, health and wellbeing. We believe the working families of Kentucky will have a great advocate in Jack Conway as governor and look forward to working with his administration to make Kentucky an even better place to live, work and play.”
The announcement was made this morning at a Frankfort press conference.
The endorsement was made by the state AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education on behalf of 38 AFL-CIO affiliated unions statewide, Londrigan said.
Conway, from Louisville, received strong union support in his two successful campaigns for attorney general. He was reelected in 2011. As of today, only Conway and Geoff Young of Lexington have filed for governor in the May 19 primary. The filing deadline is 4 p.m. (EST) Jan. 27.
Last fall, Republican candidates for the state House of Representatives promised to pass a right to work law if the GOP flipped the General Assembly’s lower chamber.
But even before election day, the Republicans and allied anti-union groups in Kentucky and beyond started working on a plan B: county right to work ordinances.
Plan B kicked in right after the Democrats held their 54-46 House majority on election day.
Now that nine unions have challenged Hardin County’s right to work measure in federal court – with the possibility of the suit expanding to cover other county RTW measures -- a plan C seems to be in the works: pass now, repeal later.
Oh, proponents of the county ordinances insist they are legal, despite a Kentucky attorney general’s opinion to the contrary. At the same time, a Florida-based anti-union group promises to pick up the tab for county officials who have to defend the ordinances in court.
Yet anti-union and pro-right to work State Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Rockfield, recently told members of the Butler County fiscal court “that should expenses mount for the county they could always repeal any ordinance passed dealing with Right-To-Work legislation,” according to Beechtree News, an online newspaper in Butler County.
Butler, part of DeCesare’s district, is one of a handful of counties that are considering, or have passed, right to work ordinances.
Warren, DeCesare’s home county, was the first county to approve one. Nobody pushed harder for the measure than DeCesare, hence his missionary trip to neighboring Butler County, where the fiscal court is pondering RTW.
Anyway, by holding out the possibility of repeal as an inducement to pass a right to work law, DeCesare sounds worried, if not desperate, that the suit will stall the county-level RTW movement.
Also, if this Sunshine State group really is an ATM for fiscal courts, why did DeCesare bring up legal expenses?
Of course, the last thing the union-busters want is for fiscal courts to stop and think about what the lawsuit might cost them.
It looks like the cogitating has commenced. Garrard County Judge-Executive John Wilson, a Republican, told Greg Kocher of the Lexington Herald-Leaderthat he’s waiting to see what happens in court.
"It's probably more prudent to watch as those lawsuits make their way through the system," Kocher quoted him.
I suspect more county judge-executives and fiscal court members will at least chose the wait-and-see-route if not drop the idea of a RTW ordinance.
Kocher’s story provided additional food for thought for county officials. He quoted Lynn Rhinehart an attorney for the AFL-CIO in Washington: “Every court that's looked at this issue has ruled that local right-to-work ordinances are illegal. The law allows states to pass right to work, but it doesn't allow counties to pass right to work. "It strikes us as a waste of taxpayers' time and money to have their county commissioners spending time debating and adopting ordinances that are going to be struck down as illegal.”
Anyway, here’s a sure-fire time and money saving tip for Butler and the other counties considering RTW: move on to serious business such as repairing roads and bridges, improving water and sewer systems and expanding fire and law enforcement protection for the citizens. Give the taxpayers a bang for their buck.
Such a decision also could be a job saver for county officials. Voters tend not to look kindly on politicians who willfully squander time and tax dollars passing unconstitutional laws.
Nine local and international unions filed suit in federal court in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday to block nearby Hardin County’s newly- enacted right to work ordinance.
The unions say the measure, which the county fiscal court passed Tuesday, 8-1, violates the National Labor Relations Act.
Several members of the unions live in Hardin County, which adjoins Jefferson County, whose seat is Louisville. Two of the local unions are headquartered in Elizabethtown, the Hardin County seat, and another in Cecelia, also in Hardin County.
Besides Hardin County, Warren, Simpson, Fulton and Todd counties have passed local right to work ordinances. Cumberland County has approved an ordinance on first reading.
The lawsuit challenges only the Hardin County ordinance. But Louisville attorney Irwin Cutler, who represents the unions, said the suit could be broadened to cover legal action to overturn the ordinances approved in other counties.
Warren was the first county to pass a right to work ordinance. Before the magistrates voted 5-1 in favor of the measure last month, Kentucky Attorney Gen. Jack Conway’s office issued an opinion warning that counties lacked the legal authority to pass such ordinances.
Said Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president: “This past election cycle, working Kentuckians rejected corporations’ bad faith attempt to take over the state legislature and poison their policies. Now these same out-of-state corporate interests want to take over our county governments by pushing a radical outside agenda. These illegal ordinances will affect all workers, union and non-union. They will decrease wages, lower median household income, increase poverty, and undermine workplace safety.”
Last fall, Republicans candidates for the state House of Representatives promised to pass a right to work law if they gained a majority in the legislature’s lower chamber. The Democrats held their 54-46 edge. The Republican-majority state senate recently passed a right to work law. The bill is expected to die in the House.
Londrigan added that in 1965, the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled “that these so-called ‘right to work’ laws can only be made at the state level.”
He said the county right to work ordinances are “illegal and will hurt our hard working families. Also, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway presented an opinion stating that counties lack the authority to pass this type of ordinance.”
Londrigan also said that “hardworking Kentuckians need a raise, more good jobs, and more investment in education -- not unfair, illegal and unnecessary legislation. We need to stop wasting taxpayers’ money with these attacks on Kentucky workers by out-of-state special interests pushing a radical out-of-state agenda. Our mission is to improve the lives of all working Kentuckians and raise the standard of living for all Kentuckians. We salute workers in Hardin County for taking a stand against out-of-state corporate interests."
The plaintiffs in the suit are United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Local 3047, Elizabethtown; UAW, Detroit; International Chemical Workers Union Council of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Akron, Ohio; UFCW Local 970C, Cecelia; UFCW Local 227, Louisville; General Drivers, Warehousemen and Helpers Local 89, Louisville; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 369, Louisville; International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers-Communications Workers of America, The Industrial Division of the Communications Workers of America, Dayton, Ohio; IUE-CWA, Industrial Division, CWA Local 83766, Elizabethtown.
Are these county right to work ordinances more of a ploy to pressure the Democratic House into joining the Republican Senate in passing a state right to work law?
“I’ve been told that is part of their strategy,” said State Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah. “But that is not going to be an effective strategy."
Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, says the House won’t cave on right to work.
“I think the recent attorney general’s opinion on this issue is crystal clear: Local communities cannot pass right-to-work legislation on their own,” said Stumbo, who was Kentucky’s attorney general in 2003-2007.
“There is no mention of that authority in the law governing fiscal courts, and there is no way in the world we in the House will consider changing that. This initiative is being pushed by interests outside of Kentucky who only care about weakening our labor unions and cutting the wages of hardworking families.”
So far, fiscal courts in Warren, Simpson, Fulton and Todd counties have passed right to work ordinances. Hardin and Cumberland counties have approved such measures on first reading. Butler County is considering one.
A court challenge from unions is expected soon.
“A local government may not enact a right-to-work ordinance,” advises the opinion from Attorney Gen. Jack Conway’s office.
Todd County Attorney Harold Mac Johns agrees. He says the ordinances amount to political statements.
Ariana Levinson, a professor at the University of Louisville's Brandeis School of Law, says federal labor law allows only states to enact right to work laws. "It does not permit local sub-divisions like cities, counties, and municipalities to pass right to work laws," she told Western Kentucky University's public radio station.
Even the anti-union National Right to Work Committee says “there is zero reason to believe that any local Right to Work ordinances adopted in Kentucky or any other state will be upheld in court.”
In last fall’s elections, Republican candidates promised to pass a right to work law if the GOP flipped the House. The Republicans made right to work a central plank in their “Handshake with Kentucky” platform.
The Democrats hung onto their 54-46 edge.
“We held the House despite this Republican landslide nationwide,” said Watkins, a political science professor at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah. “The Republicans even picked up seats in the state Senate.
"I think the Republicans failed to take the House because they made right to work the big issue. Right to work is obviously not as popular as they think it is."
These legally dubious local right to work ordinances – pushed by Republicans and supported by some Democrats -- remind me of a speech AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made to the National Press Club in 2011.
After lambasting the GOP for smashing workers’ rights with a “wrecking ball,” Trumka put both parties on notice: “It doesn't matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside -- the outcome is the same either way. If leaders aren't blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families' interests, working people will not support them.”
These Democratic county officials who voted for right to work ordinances in the Warren, Fulton, Hardin and Simpson County fiscal courts are not just sidewalk superintendents. They’re up in the crane cab helping the Republicans aim the wrecking ball at Bluegrass State unions.
The Warren County fiscal court was the first local government body to approve one of these union-busting measures. Fulton and Simpson counties followed. Hardin and Todd counties have endorsed right to work proposals on first readings.
In Warren, Hardin, Simpson and Todd, Democrats made common cause with Republicans. (One Warren Democrat voted "nay.") Everybody on the Fulton court is a Democrat.
We expect the shaft from the GOP. Long gone are liberal and moderate Republicans like Kentucky’s Sen. John Sherman Cooper.
The GOP has been the bare-knucks, anti-labor party for years. Most Democrats have been in organized labor’s corner since President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Dealers.
But right-wing, anti-union “Blue Dog” Democrats are a breed common in Kentucky, especially in rural county courthouses and in small-town city halls. Some of them are virtually indistinguishable from Republicans on just about every issue that comes up the pike.
Trumka didn’t mention the Blue Dogs by name. I suspect they and like-minded Democrats are whom he mainly meant by politicians “simply standing aside.”
I’ve heard “Blue Dogs” called “Republican Lite” in union halls. So has Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO.
“Dino” – “Democrat In Name Only” – is an even better handle for the likes of these union-busting officials in Warren, Fulton, Hardin, Simpson and Todd counties.
Anyway, back in 2011, Londrigan echoed Trumka: “With workers and their unions facing an unprecedented corporate-backed onslaught of anti-worker, anti-union legislation across our nation, it is timely and appropriate to ask both Democrats and Republicans, 'Which Side Are You On?'
He added: “Yes, this old labor union song and slogan aptly sums up what workers and their unions want to know from members of both parties: do they support the rights of workers – us -- to form and join unions of their choosing or do they stand with corporations, their wealthy owners and paid political enablers – them -- who are on a mission to destroy the American labor movement?
“It really does come down to that. Are Democrats willing to stand with workers and support them, or are they going to straddle the fence and act as if they are on our side, but then not be there when the war on workers is being fought? Now is the time for Democrats to proclaim that they are on our side. There are no neutral zones in the corporate war on workers.”
Londrigan’s words ring truer than ever now that the GOP's anti-worker war, bankrolled by reactionary billionaires like the Koch brothers, has come to the Bluegrass State – with some Democratic enablers in the front ranks of organized labor’s would-be destroyers.
Trumka stressed that unions aren’t giving up on genuinely pro-union Democrats. “We’ve spent money where we have friends and will continue to do that,” he explained.
Anyway, after Trumka’s speech, some Democratic honchos rushed to promise that the party is still in labor’s corner. “Labor’s fight is our fight and we’re proud to partner with them,” Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Associated Press.
I wonder what Crider would make of these Kentucky Dinos who are so proud to partner with the GOP union-haters whose idea of "free enterprise" is free of unions?
Proponents of local right to work ordinances claim polls show most Kentuckians are pro-right to work.
It may be an old cliché, but the only poll that counts is the one on election day.
Last November 4, right to work lost.
Almost every Republican candidate for the state House of Representatives pledged to help make Kentucky the 25th right to work state. A right to work law was a central plank in the GOP’s “Handshake with Kentucky” platform.
On the stump, in a flurry of campaign fliers and in a seemingly endless round of radio and TV commercials, Republican House hopefuls vowed to pass a right to work law if the GOP flipped the General Assembly’s lower chamber. The state Senate has a pro-right to work Republican majority.)
Yet the Democrats held their 54-46 House majority.
Oh, at first, the Republicans seemed pretty sure they’d win the House, where most Democrats – and even some Republicans – oppose right to work. But by late summer, it looked like the GOP’s confidence might be waning. Or, at least, the Republicans seemed to be devising a Plan B.
In early September, state Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, sought an opinion from Attorney Gen. Jack Conway on whether counties could legally pass right to work ordinances.
In late December, Conway’s office, citing federal labor law, said no.
The GOP’s Plan B kicked in anyway. Minutes after Conway’s opinion was issued, Warren County approved a right to work ordinance. Simpson and Fulton counties have followed.
In addition, Hardin and Todd counties have passed right to work ordinances on first reading. Cumberland County is reportedly ready to follow next week.
Not surprisingly, right to work backers claim Conway, a Democrat, is biased in favor of unions. Yet even the GOP-friendly, anti-union National Right to Work Committee warns “there is zero reason to believe that any local Right to Work ordinances adopted in Kentucky or any other state will be upheld in court.”
At any rate, unions are expected to challenge the ordinances in court this month, attorney Dave Suetholz told the Simpson Fiscal Court. The Kentucky State AFL-CIO is working closely with the national AFL-CIO on the issue, added Suetholz, who represents the state AFL-CIO.
Meanwhile, Todd County attorney Harold Mac Johns doubts the county right to work measures will stand up in court.
“I think the state has pre-empted that” (locally enacted right to work ordinances), he told Hopkinsville radio WHOP. “It’s my hope that the county is not forced to expend any general fund resources to defend this.”
Johns also thinks the right to work ordinance is more of a political statement, according to the radio station.
So having failed to grab the House, the state GOP and its anti-union allies went hunting for fiscal courts comprised of anti-union Republicans and like-minded Democrats – make that “Democrats” -- and encouraged them to pass local right to work ordinances.
No doubt, the ordinances were timed to pressure the legislature, which meets in a few days. My guess is hogs will fly before House Democrats cave on right to work.
Anyway, I don’t know Johns. But if he’s an I-told-you-so kind of guy, I’d bet the farm his day is coming. It’s not a question of if the courts will overturn these ordinances, it’s when.
The Todd County Fiscal Court has approved a local right to work ordinance on first reading, but County Attorney Harold Mac Johns doubts the measure will survive a court challenge.
“I think the state has pre-empted that” (locally enacted right to work ordinances), he told Hopkinsville radio WHOP. “It’s my hope that the county is not forced to expend any general fund resources to defend this.”
Johns also believes the right to work ordinance is more of a political statement, according to the radio station.
“What I’ve learned in industrial recruitment is location, availability of labor, transportation, availability -- site availability -- is much more important and we’ve never -- and I’ve been around the industrial foundation for almost 30 years -- and no one’s ever brought it (right to work) up when I’ve been present,” he said.
Besides in Todd County, fiscal courts in Fulton, Hardin and Simpson counties have passed right to work ordinances on first reading. The Warren County fiscal court became the first county government in the state to approve a local right to work ordinance.
An opinion issued by the office of Attorney Gen. Jack Conway advised “that a local government may not enact a right-to-work ordinance.”
Unions are expected to contest the local right to work ordinances in court.
No issue has had as big an impact on the fortunes of organized labor in the United States as has racism. From the days of the first workers’ movements in this country, the 1 percenters (be they the slaveholders of the old South, the robber barons of the Gilded Age, our own Waltons, Gateses, or Kochs have used racism as a means to divide and defeat workers.
It is thus critical that organized labor make the right decision and take the right path in the wake of the new mass movement that has come to the fore concerning police brutality and racist policing. Young people, minorities, and community activists are on the march across the country, seeking justice for the Mike Browns and Eric Garners of this country. Labor must extend its hand and join with those fighting for justice today or face irrelevancy tomorrow.
I have argued with a number of union brothers and sisters on this issue, many of whom are quick to stand up for the police in those situations mentioned. They argue that the police involved were in the right, and throw around terms like ‘thug’ to describe those victims of police brutality. They do so without realizing that they are engaging in the sort of divide and defeat rhetoric used by the bosses undermine our position in the workplace and in our communities. Because that’s exactly what is going on here, make no mistake about it: the 1 percent and the media that they own and control are using this episode as a way to divide workers along racial lines, to engender a kind of racial solidarity between the white worker and the white policeman, rather than allow class solidarity between white workers and workers of color to develop in response to racist police violence.
Should we then adopt a “colorblind” perspective, replacing the chants of ‘Black Lives Matter’ with those of ‘All Lives Matter’? This is a tempting response and an attempt to universalize the experience of those people of color who live under the constant threat of racist police violence, but it ultimately falls short of addressing the problem at hand, which is the specific violence and discrimination aimed at people of color specifically in this country. To argue that white people in this country face exactly the same kind of police repression as do people of color is to engage in dishonesty. White workers and people of color have more in common with one another than white workers do with the 1 percent who would hope they would think otherwise, yes, but this in and of itself does not mean that white workers experience the same kinds of discrimination that people of color do in this country.
We cannot build interracial class solidarity by ignoring the very real ways that workers of color in this country face special kinds of discrimination not visited upon white workers. We have to address these issues forthrightly and put the full force of the labor movement behind those movements fighting for racial and social justice. Only then can we really end the kind of racism that is used by the 1 percent to keep us at each other’s throats, rather than going after our real enemy - them.
Editors note: Devin Griggs, who grew up in Marshall County, Ky., is a Murray State University graduate who lives in the Chicago area where he belongs to UFCW Local 1546. The son of Cliff Griggs, a member of the United Steelworkers, Devin received the 2011 Kentucky State AFL-CIO Youth Award.
It’s hard to deny that the past six years have been rough for the American worker.
The greatest economic catastrophe since the 1930s struck out of nowhere in 2008, compounding the negative effects of nearly four decades of economic decline and wage stagnation. Millions were tossed out of their homes and onto the streets as Washington moved to bailout the banksters that caused this mess in the first place.
At the same time, millions turned to an incoming administration to fix the mess that had been wrought. Young people, minorities, women, and all those who had felt the brunt of the right-wing turn in American politics since the 1970s, rallied at the polls in big numbers to reject the kind of big business politics that had brought the nation to the brink.
And yet six years into the crisis, we are faced today with many of the same problems that faced us back in 2008. The financial sector today is more concentrated than it was at the time of the crash in 2008.
Millions are still without homes, without jobs, and without hope. In response, young people have mobilized, as have other groups that have continued to get the short end of the stick in an era defined by bankster bailouts, austerity, and unending war.
The Occupy movement, reflecting the revolutionary currents in the Middle East and Northern Africa, hit American streets in September 2011. From Zuccotti Park to a cramped room at Murray State University, where I was a student, young people made their voices heard.
They denounced the control of government and the economy by the banksters -- the one percent -- and called upon government to make policy in the interest of the workers, the 99 percent. Young people have subsequently acted as the leading force in the protests against police brutality stemming from the tragic slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
I don’t pretend to speak for everybody in my generation, but I’d like to think that these outbursts of activity on our part stem from the realization that something is fundamentally and undeniably wrong with the society in which we live. A college diploma is too often worth less than the paper it’s printed on these days. Millions of us toil for long hours at more than one job to make ends meet. Unpaid internships are the rule, rather than the exception. With all that in mind, what else can we do but strike out at everything allayed against us?
There are, however, others waiting in the wings who wish to take advantage of this mass discontent among young people and workers in the United States. These demagogues blame the victims of the Great Recession for that catastrophe, rather than placing the blame upon the one percent that so rightfully deserves it.
One of these demagogues is the scion of the Paul family, the junior senator from Kentucky, Republican Rand Paul. Like his father before him, Paul talks a good talk on a lot of issues, but these belie his actual agenda.
Many young people were attracted to Rand Paul’s father, former GOP Texas Congressman Ron Paul, in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential election campaigns. Paul the Elder gained something of a reputation as a maverick, antiwar Republican during the Bush years, giving him a base that he might not otherwise have had had his record been more closely examined.
The elder Paul was intimately connected with far-right, proto-fascist hate groups for a good bit of his career, and never shied away from playing on the racism of his support base to raise funds from neo-Nazi websites like Stormfront.org.
His son, by contrast, has attempted to chart a more ‘moderate’ (as far as Republicans go) course. Unlike his father, the younger Paul is not a committed non-interventionist. He’s also been a quite vocal advocate of using the federal government to enact his chosen policies, which the “states’ rights” oriented Ron Paul shied away from during his Congressional career.
For example, Sen. Paul has time and time again attempted to introduce a national version of a so-called “right-to-work” law during his time in the United States Senate, although thankfully these attempts have, for the time being, been beaten back.
The younger Paul seems poised to take up his father’s mantle and seek the Republican nomination next year. Should he obtain it, his candidacy will focus on smoothing out his differences with the Republican leadership while also attempting to make the youth vote competitive, focusing on those issues with which young voters may readily identify: opposition to the ongoing war in Syria, opposition to the War on Drugs, or opposition to mass surveillance programs operated in the name of counter-terrorism.
However, this is just part of the continued Trojan Horse campaign by the Pauls to push their actual agenda: more power and wealth for the one percent.
What would a President Rand Paul, acting in concert with a Republican-controlled Congress, do? He may yet end federal enforcement of the War on Drugs, and devolve that issue to state governments. Further, he may yet cut off funding for anti-ISIS operations in Syria and withdraw troops from the region. But these will be small potatoes compared to what else we can expect from a President Paul.
Those of us who remember the 2010 Senate election in the Bluegrass State will well remember Paul’s flip-flopping on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. First he claimed that the Civil Rights Act interfered with the right of private individuals to conduct their businesses as they saw fit (which, in this case, means the right of bigots to treat minorities as second-class citizens), and after strong public pushback on that antediluvian position, eventually came out in favor of federal government intervention in the civil rights arena.
Still, it makes one wonder how a President Paul would enforce that law and other laws like the Voting Rights Act, which is currently under a multi-faceted assault by Republicans intent on kicking black and brown voters off the voting rolls.
Paul likewise voted against the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would have barred discrimination against LGBT Americans in employment. A 2011 poll conducted by the Center for American Progress found that 73 percent of Americans (including 66 percent of Republicans!) favored barring discrimination against LGBT Americans in employment, putting Paul far out of touch with public opinion on that issue.
Paul opposes universal health insurance, favors the militarization of the border with Mexico and opposes birthright citizenship for immigrants. He is an open, vociferous enemy of organized labor, and will likely do everything in his power, should he be elected president two years from now, to undermine the position of American workers and their unions.
Young people should thus not be fooled by Sen. Rand Paul. Low wages, bigotry, and union-busting will not put a single one of us in a better position. We have to instead fight to break down those barriers created by the one percent which divide us as workers, be they racism, sexism, homophobia, or any other -ism or -phobia which benefit those at the top first and foremost.
And we have to do so in the context of re-building a labor movement that can not only fight for higher wages, shorter hours, or better working conditions, but that can also act as a battering ram for the 99 percent in its ongoing and unceasing conflict against the one percent. That is change that we can believe in, and that is change that we, and only we, can bring.
Editors note: Devin Griggs, who grew up in Marshall County, Ky., is a Murray State University graduate who lives in the Chicago area where he belongs to UFCW Local 1548. The son of Cliff Griggs, a member of the United Steelworkers, Devin received the 2011 Kentucky State AFL-CIO Youth Award.
Rand Paul says his hat is in the ring for 2016 – for another senate term. But Kentucky’s junior senator didn’t rule out a presidential bid.
Team Rand still hopes their guy can run for the senate and for president at the same time. Yet still on the books – and likely to stay there – is that Kentucky law that says he can’t do that.
Oh, the Republicans figured they’d be able to change the law when the General Assembly meets again in January.
All they had to do was flip the Democratic-majority House of Representatives. They talked like they had the election in the bag.
Meanwhile, the GOP-majority state Senate voted to change the law when the legislature got together last January. The measure failed in the Democratic-majority House.
Despite Sen. Mitch McConnell’s romp on Nov. 4, the Democrats held their 54-46 state House edge.So it looks like Team Rand is back to square one.
To be sure, candidates can – and have -- run for two offices at the same time in other states. The latest double-dipper was Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. In 2012, he won reelection to the House but lost his bid for vice president.
Having been thwarted by the Democrats hold in the House, Team Rand is claiming the Kentucky double-dipping ban is unconstitutional. They’ve considered challenging it in court, an interesting prospect considering that Paul professes to be a “states’ rights” guy.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, doubts that changing the law to benefit Paul would pass constitutional muster. Such a switch could be considered special legislation, which the state charter forbids, Stumbo has pointed out.
The Speaker has more than a nodding acquaintance with the Kentucky constitution. He was the state attorney general in 2003-2007.
Anyway, the Paul camp has also mulled over skirting the law by calling for Kentucky to change its presidential primary for a caucus system.
That, too, would require the legislature’s approval. The Senate might go for it. But hogs will fly before the House of Stumbo would.
Caucus or no, if Paul became the GOP’s presidential standard bearer, his name still would be on the ballot twice when it counted – on November 8, 2016.
“Sen. Paul needs to make up his mind where he wants to serve,” suggested State Rep. Gerald Watkins of Paducah. “If he has his heart set on running for president he should go for it and not try to run for the U.S. Senate at the same time.”
Watkins is a Democrat. But he hastened to add that what he said about Paul goes for Democrats, too. “Running for two offices at the same time is not fair to the state a politician represents.”
In any event, Paul hasn’t formally said he’s a presidential candidate, but, you know, if it walks like duck. The tea party-tilting, greed-is-a-virtue Ayn Rand fan has been going out of his way to diss Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
While Paul’s political future remains uncertain, his record on labor issues could hardly be clearer: he despises unions.
Don’t take my word for it. Check out the AFL-CIO’s Legislative Scorecard. It’s online at http://www.aflcio.org/Legislation-and-Politics/Legislative-Voting-Records. In 2013, Paul voted the union position on bills zero percent of the time. His lifetime score is 4 percent. Soon to be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s score was 17 percent in 2013 and 12 percent lifetime.
Paul and McConnell teamed up to sponsor legislation to create a national right to work law.
So for those of us who pack union cards, a Sen. Paul or a President Paul is a lose-lose proposition either way.
Ira Grupper (email@example.com) is a veteran labor and civil rights activist in Louisville, Ky., where he serves on the board of directors of the Kentucky Labor Institute. He authors Labor Paeans, a column that appears monthly in FORsooth, a publication of the Louisville Fellowship of Reconciliation. This is his December column.
By IRA GRUPPER
Open Hillel—a ray of hope amid world and personal conflict
If history is a continuum, then it must also have a worldwide panorama. The Jim Crow system was opposed by the Civil Rights Movement, led by African Americans and supported by others (more about this shortly). The fight for justice in Israel and Palestine—likewise.
Listen up, y’all. Psalm 89:3: “For I have said: ‘Forever is mercy built; in the very heavens Thou dost establish Thy faithfulness.’” Well, Christians can find it in Matthew 25. And for Muslims: When some non-Muslims mocked Bilal, the black slave--Quran 49:13: O mankind, we have…appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another.”
Over the last two-plus decades I have visited Israel six times, once living there six months. I travelled from the north near Lebanon to the south near Egypt, and from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. I spent a good bit of time in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and time as well in the Gaza Strip and Amman, Jordan.
I am of two minds, and am conflicted. On the one hand, I am proud of my Jewish heritage, and our surviving the murderous Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust--and now, more than an addendum, facing an anti-Semitic wave along with the anti-immigrant wave sweeping Europe.
My people included Hillel, Einstein, Emma Lazarus, Howard Fast. We sang Zog Nit Keyn Mol, the Partisan Song of Jewish resistance against the Nazis: Never say that you are on your final road.
But I said that I was of two minds. Lord, am I of two minds. The second scenario concerns the occupation and humiliation of my Palestinian cousins. In my name, in the name of the Jewish people, Israel visits upon the Palestinian people a brutal occupation of their land.
Israel bestows upon the Palestinians collective punishment, deprivation of water, and so much more.
Moving right along. Hillels are Jewish university organizations, similar to Newman Clubs for Catholics. Many Jewish students claim that Hillels will not permit views critical of Israel and the Jewish “mainstream” to be expressed in open discussion.
Comes now a beam of light, a way for Jews of conscience to distance ourselves and challenge the oppression being visited in our name.
This ray of hope is called Open Hillel. Hillel was a scholar and teacher of the first century: "What is hateful to yourself do not do unto others. This is the entire Torah; the rest is commentary.”
Three hundred participants, from the U.S., Israel and elsewhere, convened at Harvard University in October. Their message: open Hillel to diverse opinions, as Hillel would want, and not as Netanyahu would want. They succeeded in opening Hillels on three campuses thus far.
I felt so privileged to have been invited to be part of a plenary session: “From Mississippi to Jerusalem: a Discussion with Jewish Civil Rights (Movement) Veterans”. How honored I was to share the podium with two veterans of that vanguard group of the Movement, SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee: Dottie Zellner and Larry Rubin.
The following day I was on another panel: “How Israel-Palestine Affects Left-Wing Coalition Building in America”. Co-panelists: Yasmeen Silva, Palestinian American student at Vassar College, activist with Students for Justice in Palestine. And Alice Rothschild, a Boston-based physician, author, filmmaker, and activist in the Jewish community.
On a personal note. There was a Friends of SNCC group at Vassar College, in the 1960’s, that “adopted” me, sending me my salary/stipend of $15/week. I feel a kinship with Vassar!
The conference was not a monolith. One speaker was from J Street, a liberal group that wants a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. And yet the head of J Street supported the Israeli invasion of Gaza. But most conferees opposed the slaughter.
There was the wonderful Jewish Voice for Peace. JVP focuses on ending the Israeli occupation.
I am hopeful Open Hillel will make a difference. But I am mindful of the mass murder of Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces, the devastation to the infrastructure of Gaza, perhaps the most densely populated place on earth.
Where in the Midrash does it sanction these crimes against humanity? Did the Bible get it wrong when the scribes wrote: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil? Must we also add Mother Jones’ prophetic words: Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living?
But I am still conflicted. How do I keep my balance when the forces of evil supporting my guywire of hope are swinging wildly and threatening my soul? Is this tensioned cable really adding stability, or is it a perpetuator of the evil of occupation?
I appreciate the contributions Jews have made throughout history: Hillel, Maimonides, Emma Lazarus, Howard Fast. But I equally appreciate Palestinian poets: Mahmoud Darwish, Sami Muhanna, Maya Abu al-Hayyat. Listen to, do not merely read, the words of Zuhair abu Shayeb:
“From what source of light/ does the day occur?/ Does the earth propitiate itself/ and the seas catch fire?/ By what light do we shell roads until daybreak?/ And the sound is bearable/ and the morning, like bullets, is bearable…”.
“Some black political leaders think Democratic candidates who distanced themselves from President Barack Obama sapped enthusiasm among African-Americans in states where they anchor the party's base,” writes Bill Barrow of the Associated Press.
He cited Sen. Kay Hagan’s narrow defeat in North Carolina, Michelle Nunn’s near-landslide loss in Georgia, and the plight of Mary Landrieu, who faces a tough runoff election in Louisiana next month.
In Kentucky, Democratic hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes also fled from the president. Sen. Mitch McConnell handily defeated her.
Barrow added that a larger turnout among African Americans by itself wouldn’t have added up to Democratic triumphs in Georgia or Louisiana because 3 out of 4 white Georgians voted against Nunn and more than 4 out of 5 Louisiana whites voted against Landrieu.
Grimes likely would have come up short, too. But I’ve heard some Kentucky Democrats wonder if Grimes depressed the African America turnout to some extent by keeping the president at arm’s length and especially by refusing to say if she voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.
In any event, Linda Wilkins-Daniels, an officer in the North Carolina Democratic Party's Black Caucus, told Barrow that Democratic candidates missed an opportunity to use the president to tell a success story and to make political hay off differences with Republicans on issues like the minimum wage, financial regulation, student loans and health care.
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.
I’m one of those “liberal national Democrats” that conservative Kentucky Democrats sometimes scorn.
I know some Kentuckians of my persuasion are less than enthusiastic about Team Switch. They say Alison Lundergan Grimes is merely the anti-McConnell.
I beg to disagree.
This union card-carrying Hubert Humphrey Democrat is voting for Grimes. As far as I can tell, so are all of my left-leaning buddies here in deep western Kentucky, where I was born, reared and still live.
Anyway, when Grimes revealed her not-exactly-liberal policy agenda early in her campaign, blogger Joe Sonka suggested it might “cause enough Kentucky liberals to totally check out from the race and sit at home next November and drag away thousands of potential votes in Louisville and Lexington to affect the outcome in a close race.”
In Kentucky a minimum wage earner fortunate enough to be covered by Federal Laws will earn about $15,000 a year. A single parent with children needs food stamps or rental assistance. This is America?
The Circus Elephants always make their grand entry in single file with trunks grasping the tail of the elephant ahead. The first with the word “Koch Millions,” then“Koch Billions”, the third ”Americans for Prosperity.”, The next elephant wears camouflage in an attempt to hide, “Crossroads GPS.” And last, the haggard elephant named simply “Senior Senator”, atop a logo: “Make Me AN Offer.”
If one has found the fabled Fountain of Youth, then feel free to criticize Medicaid, Medicare, Obamacare, and Social Security. Remember to share with your parents, aunts, and uncles and others your longevity secret; too many elders knew the diet was beans and taters in the County Poor Houses of their youth, beggars—not pan handlers- on street corners in our larger cities.
Right to Work Laws portend a return to the 12 hour work day working alongside a couple of ten year olds. A vision of heartless money grubbers uncaring for the workers under their aegis. They have been brought to heel in the past by Unions, a fight that continues. When the water raises the boats of organized labor, all boats in the water rise.
In 2014 do we want more corporate control? The choice is clear: Vote for the Party that created a pompous Supreme Court, treading on God by creating a new species of “people”-- the corporations. Or, vote for the Party that actually stands up for real people. We must not let the Democracy of the people, by the people and for the people slip away.
Talk is cheap. Words to purportedly patriotic tunes can ring hollow too when they are sung by a guy who skipped military service in wartime yet bases his whole show biz persona on very public professions of love for God and country.
I mean Lee Greenwood. The country music star is famous for crooning “God Bless the U.S.A.” The tune was “voted the most recognizable patriotic song in America,” according to his website.
The Grammy Award-winning Greenwood, 72, sang his signature song at a free concert on behalf of the Mitch McConnell campaign Tuesday night on a farm near Murray. McConnell stood next to Greenwood as the popular recording artist belted out “God Bless the U.S.A.”
About 200 people, including First District U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, showed up.
McConnell and Greenwood (Whitfield, too) share hard right Republican politics with a God-and-country slant.
George Washington knew that there was a fear in our young democracy that a new form of royalty might be realized if he accepted a third term as President. He set the Gold Standard for politicians by serving only two terms in office.
The multiple terms of Franklin Roosevelt may have been appropriate in time of war. However, the American People clamored for a two term limit and our Constitution was amended to limit presidents to two terms.
We rail against strangleholds in Congress by Senators and Representatives. Senators have been know to be wheeled into the Senate Chamber in a hospital bed, decades in Washington have twisted them beyond recognition. Snake oil salesmen come along at election time to blind our eyes, addle our brains, and transform us into poor deciders.
If you believe term limits for Congress are in order, now is the time to vote against lifelong politicians. Some call this democracy in action.
Reporters are still bird-dogging Sen. Mitch McConnell over a story in The Hill that said his campaign offered to pay volunteers to help boost “an enthusiastic atmosphere” at his campaign rallies.
The other day, Louisville’s WAVE TV ran a news story featuring McConnell’s response to the continuing controversy. Predictably, the senate majority leader wannabe tried to fluff it all off.
But what got my attention was how the WAVE story ended: “McConnell also faced a question…about whether if he became majority leader he would push legislation to offer privatized accounts for Social Security. McConnell said he wasn’t going to say what his agenda would be” [Italics mine].
Alison Lundergan Grimes is this union card-carrying, 63-year-old Social Security recipient’s candidate.
Yet if I were a retiree on the fence wavering between Team Mitch and Team Switch, I’d give what McConnell said – or, rather didn’t say – some serious, if not prayerful, consideration before I voted a week from Tuesday.
In any event, this lifelong Kentuckian and out-to-pasture community college teacher is grateful to be getting Social Security. I want Uncle Sam to keep running the program.
Right-wing scare tactics about Social Security going broke are baloney. They are calculated to undermine public confidence in one of the best federal programs, thus helping pave the way for Republicans like McConnell to privatize Social Security.
Former president Bill Clinton, stumping for Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in Paducah, revealed his version of how Sen. Mitch McConnell is trying to con voters by tying her to President Barack Obama.
“Now here’s what the real message is,” Clinton told about 1,800 Grimes partisans who jammed the McCracken County High School gym.
Grinning broadly and standing before a huge American flag reminiscent of the opening scene from the movie Patton, he pretended to be the senate majority leader wannabe: “I know you don’t like the president.
“This is your last chance to vote against him because he’s gonna be gone in two years and you know you want to pop him one more time.
“You know you do.”
The Big Dog paused to let the laughter and applause subside.
The Hill Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined comment on the news that he's offering all-expenses-paid trips for volunteers to provide "enthusiasm" during stops on his bus tour.
"I'm not sure I know what to say about that," he told CBS affiliate WVNS, directing the reporter to campaign adviser Josh Holmes.
The Hill reported this week that a Kentucky Republican Party operative emailed supporters in early October offering all-expenses-paid trips to join the senator's tour and "contribute to an enthusiastic atmosphere" at events.
The new Bluegrass Poll seems to prove Team Switch’s contention that the last Bluegrass Poll wasn’t an “outlier,” pollster-speak for a survey that’s the exception, not the rule.
Released Monday, the survey had Sen. Mitch McConnell up 43-42 over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. The previous Bluegrass Poll put Grimes out front, 46-44. Both surveys were well within the margin of error.
The new poll “confirms yet again that the 15-month campaign plan from which we have never wavered has Alison poised for a narrow but decisive victory on November 4th,” said a Monday statement from Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst.
He added, “Since the last Bluegrass poll, Mitch McConnell and his allies have outspent our side by nearly $3 million, lying about Alison and her record, and they have nothing but a statistical dead heat (and the further cementing of McConnell’s mid-40’s ceiling) to show for it.
“McConnell and his allies have spent a whopping $50 million trashing Grimes and yet today we stand deadlocked just 15 days out.”
The survey of 655 likely voters also had Libertarian David Patterson with five percent.
“The poll shows that McConnell is in the fight of his political life despite being the most powerful Republican in the Senate and likely to take over as the Senate majority leader if he wins re-election and the GOP can win control of the Senate,” wrote Joseph Gerth in the Louisville Courier-Journal, the Bluegrass State’s largest newspaper.
Team Switch dismissed the previous Bluegrass Poll an “outlier.” So did some Washington pundits and political science professors in Kentucky and elsewhere.
Hurst countered that the current poll “confirms what we learned in the previous Bluegrass poll—that there has been a fundamental shift in the race since late August when McConnell led by 4 points, represented by a substantial swing to Grimes that has her tied or enjoying a slight lead.
“Even the right-wing Gravis poll last week showed Alison gaining 7 points since their September 16th survey, with huge pickups amongst the key independent demographic.”
Hurst charged that Team Mitch “is still pushing bad data in hopes of feeding a media narrative that the race is slipping away. That may be working with some DC outlets, but once again, the disconnect between Beltway punditry and the reality on the ground is vast.
“McConnell’s two latest data points do nothing but prove that this race is tied for the incumbent, at best. To wit: the Fox News poll touted by Republicans in early October had McConnell up four points, but as FiveThirtyEight noted of that poll, controlling for the GOP-leaning house effect of Fox polling, the actual result would be McConnell +0.4% — a pure coin flip.”
Hurst also took exception to the numbers in the recently-released Republican-leaning Rasmussen poll, which put McConnell on top 52 to 44.
The liberal Daily Kos website derides Rasmussen as “the House of Ras.” Hurst claimed the Rasmussen survey “was riddled with so many errors and flawed assumptions it’s barely worth rebutting.”
Hurst’s statement also said that “McConnell’s numbers remain dangerously low for an incumbent” though “McConnell partisans will point to a year’s worth of public polling showing the majority having McConnell in the lead.” Those numbers don’t matter, he added, “given that the fundamental shift shows Alison pulling into the lead or tied and McConnell stuck in neutral with momentum on our side.”
In addition, Hurst said Team Switch “remains in an extremely strong financial position…The campaign recently released yet another record-breaking 3rd quarter fundraising haul, announcing nearly $4.4 million cash-on-hand for the sprint down the stretch. That amount is more than any Democrat holds in any competitive 2014 U.S. Senate race that remains in play.”
The news that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee evidently isn’t going to buy any more TV ads for Alison Lundergan Grimes has sent the celebrity pundits scurrying to their word processors to compose obituaries for Team Switch.
“Democrats are pulling out of the Kentucky Senate race. Here’s why that’s important,” trumpeted a headline on “The Fix,” Chris Cillizza’s Washington Post column (at least it was the headline on the Internet.
“The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has stopped its TV advertising for the final three weeks in the Kentucky Senate race,” Cillizza wrote. “That decision effectively leaves Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes on her own and is rightly read as a sign that national Democrats believe the race is effectively over.”
Grimes, the Democrat who is after Sen. Mitch McConnell’s job, was up 46-44 over the senate majority leader wannabe in the last Bluegrass Poll. So Cillizza’s musing made me think of what Mark Twain supposedly said about reports of his death being more than a tad exaggerated.
Anyway, after reading Cillizza’s musing, this old reporter sought comment from Charly Norton, Grimes’s press secretary, I emailed her. “We remain confident and poised to win,” she emailed right back.
Campaign flaks get paid to say things like that.
Go ahead and call it home cooking if you wish, but here's how a Democratic party pro sizes it up: -- a DSCC “pullout” is not quite right. The DSCC isn’t -- for now anyway – buying ads beyond what the group already paid for. But the DSCC’s effort in the state is more than buying TV ads.
Check out Guy Cecil’s $300,000 (Exec. Dir. of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) Tweet.
Just signed a $300,000 wire for the KY Get Out The Vote operation for @AlisonForKY. That's an interesting view of "pulling out of the race"
The election will boil down to turnout. Team Switch is confident they have built a mega-horsepower statewide grassroots, get-out-the-vote organization that’s hitting on all eight cylinders.
Team Switch has $4.4 million in cash on hand and posted record-breaking fundraising totals on Tuesday: a cool $4.9 million.
Last – maybe first – is that Bluegrass Poll. Team Switch is especially happy with Grimes’s numbers among independents.
True confession time: I’m rooting for Team Switch. Nonetheless, I generally don’t bet on politics or sporting events and I leave the prognosticating to media stars like Cillizza.
But before golden October declines into somber November and election day, I would wager on a couple of things:
Team Mitch doesn’t think their guy has the election in the jug.
Whichever team wins, the vote will be uncomfortable close.
Norton’s rejoinder to the big league pundits reminds me of the immortal Bluto Blutarsky who famously declared: “Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is!’” (If you don’t know Bluto, Google him, or let me google that for you.)
Anyway, right now Team Switch is still on the field and clinging to a two point lead in one of the most highly regarded polls in Kentucky. She was four points down in the previous Bluegrass poll.
Admittedly, I don’t think Grimes helped herself by not revealing who she voted for in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. At her TV debate with McConnell, she still wouldn’t say. I wish she had all along.
Yet the fact that she he hasn’t – and apparently won’t -- doesn’t seem to be hurting her with the base, or at least among union families like mine, who are a big chunk of her base.
This lifelong Kentuckian who doesn’t think “liberal” is a dirty word and who voted for Obama both times he ran isn’t holding Grimes’s non-disclosure against her. None of my union buddies who voted for Obama are either.
Also, I didn’t detect any flagging ardor on Grimes’ part in her war of words with the captain of Team Mitch. It could be argued convincingly that she won on points.
Too, big-name Democrats are still heading to Kentucky to stump for her. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio came the other day.
Both Clintons have been here, Hillary is supposed to be back tonight. I hear Bill is due back next week.
No matter what the punditocracy is pontificating, to the captain and the rest of Team Switch I say, “Illegitimi non carborundum, y’all.” You can Google that one, too.
In Monday night's KET debate, Sen. Mitch McConnell bristled at Alison Lundergan Grimes’s intimation that he became a millionaire by cashing in on his job.
No way, he shot back at the Democrat who wants his job. The senator protested that Grimes knows he and his spouse got rich as "a result of an inheritance that my wife got when her mother passed away."
Joe Raese was even more candid four years ago: “I made my money the old-fashioned way, I inherited it. I think that’s a great thing to do.”
Joe who? He’s the Republican another Joe, a Democrat named Manchin, beat in the 2010 West Virginia senate race. Raese’s remarks apparently didn’t play in Parkersburg, Philippi and elsewhere in the Mountain State.
I wouldn’t bet the farm that McConnell’s true confession will play in Paducah, Pikeville or anyplace else in the Bluegrass State.
McConnell says success awaits anybody who has initiative and works hard. George Babbitt called it “pep.”
In McConnell’s Babbitt world, unions and government help for people who need help – help like a boost in the minimum wage – kill jobs and destroy self-reliance.
“Americans take pride in solving problems for themselves,” McConnell once said. “And if we fail, we get back up and try again. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.”
So arise and get peppy. But it's easier work just talking about self-reliance while living it up on an inherited fortune.
Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan doesn’t care if Alison Lundergan Grimes, the labor-endorsed Democrat who wants Sen. Mitch McConnell’s job, voted for President Barack Obama or not.
“This election is about Grimes versus McConnell,” Londrigan said. “He is the arch enemy of workers, and we need to be focused on that.”
Londrigan found agreement aplenty in the mostly union crowd at Saturday’s “Stand Up and Fight Back” labor rally in Paducah.
Veteran city union leader Larry Sanderson got up the rally to boost support for five local labor-endorsed Democrats for the state legislature. He said the crowd size “was at least 2,500.” The gathering was one of the largest union rallies in western Kentucky in a long time, said Sanderson, a retired UA international representative.
The weather was cool, but Grimes showed up to a warm welcome. The crowd’s faith in labor’s senate candidate seemed unshaken by the controversy she sparked by declining to tell The Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board whom she voted for in 2008 when Obama was elected president and in 2012 when he won a second term.
Charles Dempsey, a United Auto Workers retiree from Benton, didn’t mince words. “She’s a Democrat. Who the hell did they think she voted for?”
Tonight's Sunday Train is a repeat from 2011, a reminder of the kind of progressive economic development for Appalachian counties that Mitch McConnell has long since abandoned in order to pander to the Club of Growth and other strands of the extreme right.
Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence
The flashy rail projects are the very HSR projects to build bullet trains serving urban areas with millions of people.
But the role of rail in supporting sustainable extends beyond the bullet train system alone. It may not be critical to the financial success of these bullet trains to provide service to people living in urban areas of 50,000 to 200,000 ~ but its critical to these people to have access to some form of sustainable intercity transport.
Indeed, if we are going to be harvesting wind power, solar power, sustainably coppiced biocoal, geothermal, run of river hydro, and other sustainable resources ... we are going to be creating incomes in areas away from the 1m+ cities. We best look after the needs of the people who come to those areas looking for work.
Team Mitch’s website claims, “As the next majority leader, Senator McConnell will fight to protect Medicare for all Kentucky seniors.”
I’ll believe that when hogs fly and kids don’t shoot hoops in Kentucky anymore – nah, not even then.
I’m a 64-year-old union retiree on Social Security. I’ll go on Medicare a little over a month after the election.
On Nov. 4, I’m voting for Alison Lundergan Grimes for a number of reasons, not the least of which is her pledge to safeguard Social Security and Medicare.
McConnell’s vow that he’ll protect Medicare reminds me of the proverbial fox who promised to protect the hen house – and smiled, revealing chicken feathers stuck between his teeth.
“I will never support means-testing for Social Security,” Grimes said. “Instead, I will look for ways to spend smarter and focus on reducing waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare system, improve coordination of care between doctors, hospitals and patients and allow Medicare to better negotiate prescription drug prices.”
It looks like the fickle fellow of football and politics has gone over to Team Switch.
I mean Old Mo, Momentum.
It’s like we’re in the fourth quarter of a smash-mouth, slobber-knocking grid grudge match. Alison Lundergan Grimes has quarterbacked her underdog eleven to a slim lead over powerhouse Team Mitch.
A translation for non-football fans: Grimes is up 46-44 in the current Bluegrass Poll. In late August, the third quarter, the same poll had Team Switch down by four.
After his team blew the lead, quarterback Mitch McConnell blew his cool on the radio – more on that in a minute. Anyway, it’s easy to get testy when it seems you’re losing the big game you thought you had in the bag.
After all, Grimes was just an “empty dress,” according to a GOP bigwig in Washington. Team Mitch evidently figured her for a pushover, too.
I’d bet the farm that Sen. McConnell was sure by now he’d be in the equivalent of a blowout high school ballgame, one where the refs keep the clock going to bring a swifter end to the inevitable.
Who can forecast the final score in this nail-biter? But the football faithful know that when an underdog unexpectedly gives a powerhouse a run for its money, the latter squad sometimes gets rattled and starts fumbling and tossing interceptions.
It’s the same in politics.
The other day, McConnell journeyed to Georgia to hobnob with GOP senate hopeful David Perdue, a millionaire who said he is “proud” of making a ton of money as a big-time outsourcer.
Team Switch pounced on that fumble.
The Grimes campaign made Perdue and McConnell birds-of-a-feather. They added Mitt Romney to the flock. They pointed out that Romney was one of the first outsourcers and that he had recently come to Kentucky to help raise cash for Team Mitch.
Team Switch wants us to keep Georgia on our minds: “McConnell’s embrace of politicians who have earned millions in their business careers off of shipping jobs overseas tells Kentuckians all they need to know about his refusal to fight for them and their jobs.”
So after his rainy night in Georgia, McConnell returned home and got snarky on Kentucky Sports Radio, said to be the state’s most widely listened to radio program.
Host Matt Jones said the senator was "needlessly angry" and “unnecessarily combative.” He panned the senate majority leader wannabe as "the consummate politician."
Team Switch called a blitz. McConnell’s “combative and hostile appearance on Kentucky Sports Radio only further solidified Kentuckians' view of him as an untrustworthy Washington insider, willing to play dirty tricks in an attempt to hold onto his personal power,” said Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst.
Press secretary Charly Norton sacked the quarterback: “Moreover, his abrasive, condescending interview was a stark contrast to Alison’s in-studio appearance a couple weeks ago, in which she deftly answered every question and welcomed the opportunity to debate McConnell on the show.”
Team Switch also emailed out a red-hued “Mad Mitch” graphic that shows the senator scowling and raising his fist.
Ire, of course, is often a mask for fear. McConnell might be at least a little scared that “his personal power” is waning. So he popped his cork on the radio.
Will he do likewise on TV? McConnell is supposed to debate Grimes Monday night on Kentucky Educational Television.
Can he keep calm and carry on?
Supposedly, McConnell has never trailed in an October poll. For sure, Old Mo has never been on the other side this late in a McConnell senate campaign.
The captain of Team Mitch is used to getting his way by buffaloing political foes. “His glower has usually been enough to dissuade those who consider crossing him,” Jason Zingerle wrote in Politico.
That “glower” has failed to faze Grimes, whom an admiring Politicususa website called “all Southern steel magnolia with her gorgeous smile and her sugar coated daggers.”
Whatever else happens in the debate, I’d also bet the farm that Grimes won’t wilt or blow her stack. But can Team Mitch doctors cure their quarterback’s bad case of fumbleitis?
TMP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had an unusually confrontational interview on Wednesday with Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones, who later described him as "needlessly angry" and "the consummate politician." Read more.
“A jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build one,” legendary House Speaker Sam Rayburn famously observed.
Kentucky unions think they have a master carpenter in Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat who is after Sen. Mitch McConnell’s job.
The barn McConnell wants to bash is organized labor, says the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, which endorsed Grimes last year.
Promises Grimes: “In the U.S. Senate, I will help create jobs in Kentucky by raising the minimum wage, ending tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, championing equal pay for equal work, sponsoring legislation to ensure our veterans have access to good-paying jobs, and fighting to reduce student loan debt.
“I also believe it is critically important to protect Medicare and Social Security for our seniors. We should keep our promise to Kentucky seniors who cannot afford to have their healthcare or benefits cut.”
Grimes, 35, is Kentucky’s secretary of state. She is giving hope to Kentucky Democrats who long for their blue and red “Ditch Mitch” bumper stickers to come true.
Bluegrass State union volunteers are phone banking, wearing out shoe leather canvassing neighborhoods, passing out fliers and doing all else they can to help Grimes “send Mitch McConnell back to Alabama,” his native state, as she likes to put it.
“I’ve heard Mitch McConnell has never trailed in a poll in October,” said a jubilant Democratic Party activist from Paducah when he heard Alison Lundergan Grimes was up 46-44 in the brand new Bluegrass poll.
The poll followed other recent surveys that showed the captain of Team Mitch pulling ahead. The Bluegrass poll did mirror a couple of Grimes internal polls that had her out front by one or two points.
No doubt the Bluegrass poll numbers have boosted the ardor of Democrats from Paducah to Pikeville. The survey was glad tidings in the wake of the polls breaking toward McConnell. Like the Bluegrass Poll, most of them were within the margin of error.
On Saturday, Grimes is due in Paducah, the seat of McCracken County in deep western Kentucky. She will attend a big union rally for labor-endorsed regional candidates for the state legislature. The program starts at noon at the city’s Carson Park.
“The only thing standing between us and a right to work law is that Democratic house,” said rally organizer Larry Sanderson, a retired UA international representative. “We want a big crowd to come out and show our support for our friends in the legislature.”
Those friends include a quintet of Democrats: State Reps. Gerald Watkins of Paducah and Will Coursey of Symsonia and house hopefuls Jesse Wright of Mayfield and Jarrod Jackson of Princeton, plus Jeff Parker of Paducah, who is running for the state senate.
“We welcome Alison Lundergan Grimes as our friend, too,” Sanderson said. “We certainly want her elected. She opposes right to work. I know she also wants to see the Democrats keep control of the house.”
Rally goers from as far away as Louisville and points east of the Falls City are expected to jam the city’s Carson Park. “Everybody who supports our candidates is welcome, not just union members and their families. All friends of organized labor are invited.”
Besides Grimes, whom the state AFL-CIO endorsed last year, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and state senator and former governor Julian Carroll, a McCracken County native, are the featured guests. Carroll and Stumbo also enjoy union support.
“The speaker has always supported organized labor, and so has the governor,” Sanderson said. “Gov. Carroll’s father was a member of Operating Engineers Local 181 in Paducah.”
Unions have made holding onto to an anti-right to work Democratic state house of representatives and electing Grimes their top priorities on election day, Nov. 4.
Sanderson wants union members to wear hard hats and union shirts and bring union signs. “We’re getting ready to put up banners,” he said.
Meanwhile, the McConnell campaign is dismissing the Bluegrass poll as an outlier. “Team Mitch’s convenient selective memory is telling as McConnell loses ground in the final weeks of the election,” Charly Norton, Team Switch press secretary, replied in a news release.
Norton quoted the gleeful tweet from Team Mitch’s Josh Holmes after the Aug. 31 Bluegrass Poll: “…Gaining momentum, McConnell holds 4-point advantage over Grimes…”
Raw Story Attendees at Saturday night’s performance of the St. Louis Symphony were treated to an addition to the evening’s scheduled program when a flash mob of protestors serenaded the audience with a civil rights song dedicated to slain Ferguson teen Michael Brown. Read more.
Lexington Herald-Leader Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes has regained a slim edge over Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky's U.S. Senate Race, according to a new Bluegrass Poll. Read more.
I am writing to let you know that Transport for London, in partnership with the boroughs of Southwark, Camden, Islington and the City of London, would like your views on proposals for a new Cycle Superhighway between Elephant & Castle and King's Cross.
Turn around. It’s Team Mitch and the Republican Party of Kentucky.
They laugh behind organized labor’s back every time there’s an election. Why? They always expect to sucker some union members into voting Republican.
In the presidential election of 2012, for instance, about a third of union members nationwide voted for Mitt Romney, according to AFL-CIO-sponsored election night polling. (Romney, who carried Kentucky big-time, recently was in Lexington helping raise money for Sen. Mitch McConnell, the captain of Team Mitch.)
Oh, the Republican brass hats know most union members vote for labor-endorsed candidates. Usually they are Democrats. Sixty-six percent of Americans who pack union cards cast ballots for President Barack Obama in 2012, the AFL-CIO survey also found.
Hence, the Republicans are also happy when union members don’t bother to vote or even to register.
Team Mitch and at the RPK are old pros at splitting the union vote with hot button social issues like abortion and guns. The gun issue “is the one thing that will spin the blue-collar union member away from his union,” bragged the late Neal Knox, a GOP-friendly National Rifle Association board member.