Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan says Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s headline-grabbing holy war against public employee unions in Wisconsin “is part of a well-orchestrated and well-financed plan of attack on the very existence of the labor movement.”
GOP governors and lawmakers are out to bust public sector unions in other states, too, Londrigan adds.
He suspects the GOP will broaden its anti-union campaign to include Kentucky , where Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, faces a tough reelection battle. Beshear won in 2007 with strong labor backing.
The Republicans control the Kentucky state senate. The GOP expects to whittle down the Democratic house majority even more in 2012.
Says Londrigan: “If a tea party Republican wins this November’s election, the Scott Walker agenda will be on Kentuckians with a vengeance. We will be another step closer to right to work for less, repeal of prevailing wage and attacks on public sector workers and their unions.”
Warns Londrigan: “What is happening in Wisconsin should be a wake up call for union members -- all workers -- in Kentucky .”
While tens of thousands of Dairy State citizens have thronged Madison , the state capital, in support of the beleaguered public employee unions and pro-union Democratic legislators, a few hundred tea partiers have rallied to the governor and GOP lawmakers.
Londrigan isn’t surprised the tea party showed up. “All along, the agenda of the so-called tea party has been anti-worker and anti-union. The fact that the tea party stood with Scott Walker and the Republicans proves that they favor union busting. It also proves that the real purpose of the tea party, which is backed by billionaire union haters like the Koch brothers, is to promote the right-wing corporate agenda.”
For years, right-wing, anti-union Republicans have tried to make Kentucky a right to work state, Londrigan says. Kentucky is the only southeastern state that doesn't have a right to work law.
Such measures are designed to divide workers and weaken unions by permitting employees at a unionized workplace to enjoy union-won wages and benefits without paying union dues, Londrigan says. Hence, they amount to “right to work for less” laws, according to the labor leader.
Says Londrigan: “The Republicans, backed by the tea party, are going to spend millions on our governor's race. We're going to need resources if we're going to defeat those who embrace the extreme tea party agenda, which has no room for unions and workers’ rights.
“We’re going to need an all-out effort from the national AFL-CIO and from all of the international unions working together to help us mobilize our members for the November election in order to prevent the forces of anti-unionism from making advances in the Bluegrass State .”
Every Republican primary candidate is for a right to work law. All of them oppose Kentucky ’s prevailing wage law, which covers construction projects.
On the other hand, Beshear is anti-right to work and pro-prevailing wage. “The governor recently signed contracts with public employees under an executive order,” Londrigan says.
Beshear’s likely foe will be fiercely anti-union Senate President David Williams. He is the GOP primary favorite.
Meanwhile, Williams and his primary opponents are busy wooing the tea party faithful, who helped elect Republican Rand Paul to the U.S. senate last November over Jack Conway, the union-endorsed Democrat.
Paul, who often denounced lobbyists in his campaign, hired as his chief of staff an ultra-conservative, anti-union lobbyist who was also an official of the National Right to Work Committee. (Londrigan calls the group “the National Right to Work for Less Committee.”)
Says Londrigan: “Paul is also pushing a national right to work for less law and has sent inflammatory mailings on behalf of the National Right to Work for Less Committee.”
Like Walker , Paul is a tea party favorite. “Sadly, some union members have fallen for the tea party agenda,” Londrigan says. “It is deliberately deceptive. The tea party claims to be a grassroots movement of working people. But it is a tool of unbridled corporate power.”
Londrigan says the Republicans won’t stop their anti-union campaign “until they have destroyed the whole union movement.”
Explains Londrigan: “For the past four decades, the Business Roundtable has engaged in a less-well-publicized effort to destroy the building trades unions. Not-so-free-trade agreements have shipped millions of union manufacturing jobs overseas. Now the corporate-backed politicians have turned their sights squarely on public sector unions as the next phase in the corporate war on workers and their unions.
“The question is, ‘Will union members decide it is time to stand up and fight for their unions, or will they allow their unions to be destroyed and permit our nation to be completely taken over by the wealthy and their corporate henchmen?’"