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Labor makes its final argument in the Purchase
Larry Sanderson tossing Republican campaign signs down the toilet. (That's Matt Bevin's legs sticking up.)

Labor union members and educators and their supporters turned out by the thousands for a rally in Paducah Convention Center on Saturday October 27th

That was the same day that President Trump campaigned in Murphysboro, Illinois. Members of the AFL/CIO came together with KEA members to hear speeches, eat hot dogs, and to cheer on labor activist Larry Sanderson dump Republican elected officials into a giant toilet.

Local candidates were allowed to greet the crowd, but no lengthy speeches from them. Six women and two men are candidates from the Kentucky House to the US House.

Below, l to r - Martha Emmons candidate for House District 3, Desiree Owen, candidate for House District 1, Charlotte Goddard, candidate for House District 2, Julie Tennyson, candidate for Senate District 2, Abby Barnes, candidate for House District 4, Larry Sanderson interviewing Linda Story Edwards, candidate for House 6.

Each pledged their support to those gathered and to labor in general. (See at right, l to r - House 6th District candidate Linda Story Edwards, Larry Sanderson, candidate for US House 1st District Paul Walker and House 8th District candidate Jeff Taylor.

Sanderson took the unusual step of traveling through the crowd with microphone looking for comments. His strolls were featured on a two giant screens at the front of Paducah Convention Center.

Local union leader and organizer Kyle Henderson got the crowd fired up followed by AFL/CIO President Bill Londrigan who told the crowd that because of taxes passed in the 2018 General Assembly, "there's 6% on everything you do."

Videos produced by labor ran between speakers, reminded the crowd of the passage of prevailing wage, right to work and the pension reform bill. The black and white short films captured the outrage of Democratic representatives as if shot in Technicolor.

Attorney General Andy Beshear's gubernatorial running mate, Stephanie Coleman, represented the campaign. The educator spoke of the experience of a young girl her family took in. Coleman, a high school basketball coach, mentored a young woman from failing grades to a college athletic scholarship.

House Minority Leader Rep. Rocky Adkins, at left, was back in the Purchase to urge union members and teachers to get out the vote.

Adkins, for years a member of the majority, chafes under GOP rule. He urged labor to give him a majority. In return, Adkins promised another session like the last one won't happen on his watch.

Labor has been losing ground for years. Labor union membership is down. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported:

"The number of employed union members has declined by 2.9 million since 1983. ... In 2009, there was a sharp decline in the number of workers overall and in the number of union members. The number of wage and salary workers declined by 4.9 million from 2008 to 2009, and the number of employed union members fell by 771,000."

The crowd was told that passage of House Bill 2 eliminated the black lung program. At a time that miners are seeing an increase in black lung disease, the change will be catastrophic.

In Kentucky, the passage of right to work, (denying unions the ability to force employees they represent to pay dues) and repeal of prevailing wage (government contracts pay union scale - even if the job is not awarded to a union contractor) have been blows to organized labor.

Teachers, active and retired, also have been losing ground. Funding cuts, higher expectations of achievement as measured by standardized test, approval of charter schools in the 2016 session, and the biggest insult - changes in the retirement law, have mobilized teachers and retired teachers across the Commonwealth.

Teacher Sarah Stevens, shown at right, told those gathered that she now knows how far it is to Frankfort from her home "exactly three hours and twenty minutes." She said that the Republican controlled legislature passed legislation advocating training, but failed to allocate any funding for teacher training.

Wearing their signature red t-shirts, educators at the rally burst into the chant that carried many of them to the State Capitol last session.

"Stand up. Fight back."

It is what union and teacher leaders are hoping for on November 6th, Election Day.


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