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Hear the snickers?

Mitch McConnell Race Baiting

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.

Anyway, I wonder if some union members vote Republican on social issues because they think their job and their union will be there no matter what. Maybe they work at a union plant that has been running for, say, close to half a century.

Union folks so inclined ought to come to western Kentucky and visit Mayfield, where I was born, reared and still live. Just north of the city limits on U.S. 45 is a huge, flat concrete slab choked with weeds. Machines have been grinding the concrete into gravel.

Crumbling around the edges, the slab was the foundation and floor of the big Continental-General Tire plant. The factory produced car and truck tires for 48 years before it closed in 2008.

Only a warehouse remains. It is being used by a local firm that employs only a few people. They make a lot less than the plant workers did.

At its peak, the factory employed more than 2,000 men and women. Most of them belonged to United Steelworkers Local 665. The union members were among the best paid workers in my end of the state.

German-based Continental bought the plant and ultimately shut it. The company shipped production abroad to cheap labor countries and to non-union plants stateside.

The union did all it could to keep the plant open, said Wayne Chambers, Local 665’s last vice president. "We made concessions in 1994, 1997 and 2001. We offered to extend our labor agreement and commit to workforce restructuring, if the company would make an equal commitment to invest in the plant and this community."

"Continental wasn't interested. They told us they were a global company, and they were going to build their tires wherever they wanted and as cheaply as they could."

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The loss of the tire plant was the hardest economic blow Mayfield has suffered since the Great Depression.

What my hometown needs is more factory jobs. You’d think that a powerful U.S. senator like Mitch McConnell would be a willing helper.
Yet on the campaign trail in eastern Kentucky, the senate majority leader wannabe told a newspaper editor that it wasn’t his job to bring jobs to Kentucky. McConnell protested that his comment was taken out of context; the scribe stuck by his story word for word.

At least the Senate Minority Leader is consistent. Last summer, he led Senate Republicans in killing the Bring Jobs Home Act. The measure would have axed the standard tax deduction for moving expenses for businesses when they go abroad. The bill also would have provided a 20 percent tax credit to companies that insource jobs.

McConnell said the legislation was an election year stunt by the Democrats.

But, hey, McConnell claims he is “pro-coal.” Of course, he is pro-coal company owners, not coal miners.

Kentucky’s senior senator wants to repeal the whole Affordable Care Act, even though it contains provisions to help coal miners get black lung benefits. He also voted against a bill that would have provided funding to help guarantee pensions and health care for more than 12,000 retired Kentucky coal miners and their widows.

It is no wonder that the United Mine Workers of America endorsed Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat who wants McConnell’s job. The Kentucky State AFL-CIO unanimously endorsed Grimes last year.

Okay, I could have retired earlier if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a candidate tell voters, “This is the most important election in your lifetime.” They say it so often that many people dismiss it out of hand as just campaign rhetoric.

But the future of organized labor in Kentucky really is at stake November 4.

berry craig

The Republicans have made passing a right-to-work law one of their top priorities should they win control of the state house of representatives. If they get the house, there will be no stopping them. (McConnell and Rand Paul, Kentucky’s Republican junior senator, co-sponsored national right to work legislation.)

The GOP already has a right to work majority in the state senate.

Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, would doubtless veto a right to work bill. But in Kentucky, a governor’s veto can be overridden by a simple majority of both houses.

After voting in right to work, the Republicans would almost certainly vote out the state’s prevailing wage law and gut our workers compensation and occupational safety and health programs. A trickle of anti-labor legislation would become a flood.

Mitch McConnell and the RPK are counting on some union help. They want union votes. But they’ll settle for union stay-at-homes on election day.

Berry Craig

McConnell is gunning for more than senate majority leader. He wants to be Washington’s union-buster-in-chief, too.

Berry Craig