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Whistling Past the Graveyard

david williams

David Williams

Jeff Wiggins says David Williams is making his job a lot easier.

“He just keeps on proving the point that I’m trying to get across to our members,” said Wiggins, president of Steelworkers Local 9447 in Calvert City, Kentucky “David Williams hates us.”

Williams is the Republican candidate for Kentucky governor. He hopes to unseat Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, on November 8.

Polls show Beshear, who earned the Kentucky State AFL-CIO endorsement, way ahead of Williams, the state senate president – by more than 28 points in a recent survey.

The Bluegrass State governor’s race has national implications, according to Gerald Watkins, a political science professor at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah.

“Kentucky elected Republican Rand Paul to the Senate last November,” he said. “The Republicans thought they could follow that up by taking the governorship.”

steve beshear

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear

Kentucky is one of four states electing governors this year. Republican Haley Barber is expected to win another term in Mississippi. Bobby Jindal, another GOP governor, is expected to cruise in Louisiana.

In West Virginia, acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, is the favorite over Republican Bill Maloney in an October 4 special election, though some news reports have the race tightening.

Beshear seems to be pulling away from Williams. “I think the Kentucky Republicans were very excited coming into this election,” Watkins said. “But in politics, the tables can turn pretty quickly.”

Hoping to boost his flagging campaign, Williams recently sought help from Scott Walker, Wisconsin’s public employee union-busting Republican governor.

Williams and Walker appeared together in Lexington, Covington and Edgewood.

Dairy State polls show Walker is one of Wisconsin’s most unpopular governors. He faces a probable recall election next year.

“You’ve got to wonder why David Williams wanted to bring in somebody as controversial as Scott Walker," Watkins said.

Wiggins doesn’t get it either. “All I can say is birds of a feather flock together,” added Wiggins, who is also president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council and sits on the state AFL-CIO Executive Board.

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Walker said Williams’ plan for Kentucky is “parallel almost identically to what we did earlier this year in Wisconsin," according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Walker and his Republican-majority legislature gutted public employee unions, triggering historic protests which led to the recall of two of his most ardent state senate supporters.

Williams cheered Walker from Kentucky, which he wants to make a right to work state. He’s for repealing our prevailing wage law, too.
“Williams has always been against us,” Wiggins said.

In 2009, Williams kept the Kentucky legislature from endorsing a USW buy-American resolution, according to Wiggins.

The proposal said federal economic stimulus dollars “should be spent to maximize the creation of American jobs and restoring the economic vitality of our communities.”

jeff wiggins

Jeff Wiggins, president of Steelworkers Local 9447

The Kentucky House of Representatives unanimously passed the resolution, Wiggins said. “Williams had it killed in a senate committee because he said it smelled like labor.”

Meanwhile, Wiggins is traveling the state as part of the Steelworkers’ 2011 voter education program. “I never tell anybody whom to vote for. I just point out where David Williams and Gov. Beshear stand on our issues. Gov. Beshear opposes right to work and supports the prevailing wage.”

Wiggins added that Williams is all but doing his job for him. “Bringing Walker to Kentucky – what more do I need to say except what I’ve been saying all along? David Williams would be Kentucky’s version of Scott Walker.”

Not surprisingly, Williams claimed Walker’s appearance helped him. But the Enquirer reported that only “about 30 people” showed up for their rally in Edgewood, in heavily Republican northern Kentucky. They also were in tandem in nearby Covington, but at a private fundraiser.

The Lexington Herald-Leader said the Williams-Walker Lexington rally attracted about 70 protestors.

"That's what's great about America," the Enquirer quoted Walker. "People can come out and be heard.”

Walker wasn’t so gratuitous toward the thousands of union members and their supporters who rallied against him in Madison, the Wisconsin capital. Hence, Wiggins suspects Walker’s sop to free speech in Kentucky was calculated to make him look like a reasonable guy.

But given his bare-knucks brand of union-busting, Walker (and Williams) probably pines for bygone days when governors routinely used state militia soldiers to crack the heads of union members if company thugs, local cops and sheriff’s deputies couldn’t shut them up.

Berry Craig

Of course, Walker implied that the Lexington protestors represent only a tiny minority of Bluegrass State opinion. In Kentucky, maybe in Wisconsin, too, that’s called whistling past the graveyard.

No matter, Wiggins will keep barnstorming the Bluegrass State in his UAW-made Ford SUV right up to election day. “Labor is not taking anything for granted. The only poll that counts is on November 8.”

Berry Craig