HomeMatt BevinKentucky governor’s race in a nutshell for union members: Jack Conway is for us and Matt Bevin is not.
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By BERRY CRAIG

“Why vote? There’s no difference between Republicans and Democrats.”

We’ve all heard that just about every time there’s an election. Okay, sometimes it is hard to tell Republicans from Democrats in Kentucky.

Not all Democrats are in labor’s corner. About half of the county officials who voted for those local “right to work” ordinances are Democrats. Make that “Democrats.”

Conservative “Democrats” are given to trying to out-Republican Republicans – and not just in the Bluegrass State.

Nonetheless, there is a world of difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor this year.

GOP hopeful Matt Bevin says the difference is “night and day.” He’s right, too, especially if you pack a union card like I do.

Attorney Gen. Jack Conway, the Democratic candidate, is a moderate by Kentucky standards and moderately conservative measured against a national yardstick. By any gauge, Bevin is an ultra-conservative, even for a Kentucky politician.

Bevin is a fan of the extreme right wing, anti-union tea party. His running mate, Jenean Hampton, is a tea party activist.

Bevin might come across as just another button-downed, run-of-the-mill country club Republican. But he is way beyond conservative. He has a history with reactionary fringe candidates and fringe groups.

In 2004, his choice for president was Mike Peroutka, who the Human Rights Campaign called an “active white supremacist.” Avowed white supremacist Earl Holt III gave $500 to Bevin’s campaign for the 2014 GOP senate nomination.

Only when the media found him out did Bevin disavow his racist donor. Feeling the heat, he and Hampton each pledged $500 to a minority scholarship fund.

Bevin is quick to point out that Hampton is African American. Like him, she is anti-union and ultra-conservative.

Not surprisingly, racists Peroutka and Holt are fiercely anti-union. “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., said in a speech at the 1961 AFL-CIO convention.

When he ran against Sen. Mitch McConnell last year, Bevin cozied with a Kentucky branch of the reactionary and conspiratorialist John Birch Society. The group equated unions with communism and claimed the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was a communist plot to create “a Negro Soviet Republic in the United States.”

Anyway, Check out Bevin’s website: Under the topic “LABOR LAW REFORM” the website says, “Our plan will update our current labor laws that currently result in self-inflicted economic wounds. This begins with passing comprehensive Right to Work legislation and eliminating prevailing wage requirements for state contracts.”

Hampton is also pro-right to work and anti-prevailing wage. “When elected I will sponsor a bill to make Kentucky a Right to Work (RTW) state,” the Bowling Green Daily News quoted Hampton last year when she unsuccessfully ran for the state House against Rep. Jodie Richards, D-Bowling Green.

On the other side, Conway, who received the Kentucky State AFL-CIO-endorsement, opposes RTW at all levels.

He issued an official opinion warning that county RTW ordinances are illegal under federal labor law. He also filed an amicus curae (friend of the court) brief in support of the suit nine unions brought against Hardin County’s RTW ordinance.

Conway supports the prevailing wage. Likewise, his running mate, State Rep. Sannie Overly, D-Paris, is anti-RTW and pro-prevailing wage.

At any rate, just about every time there’s an election, candidates tell us it’s the most important election in our lifetime. Often they mean their lifetime.

They remind me of the parable of the little boy who cried “wolf” so often nobody believed him when the wolf really showed up.

The wolf is at the door in Kentucky, notably if you belong to a union. Bevin wants to be a bare-knucks union-buster in the mold of Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Walker is Bevin’s hero.

Walker “has fundamentally transformed that state,” Bevin said on “The Glenn Beck Show.” “You just start putting the correct principles in, and jobs come rolling in and your debt goes away. And things just turn around.”

Correct principles? Walker declared holy war on organized labor. He and his like-minded GOP-majority legislature gutted the state’s public sector unions and made Wisconsin a “right to work” state. “Membership in the Wisconsin affiliate of the National Education Association is down one-third; the American Federation of Teachers dropped by one-half; the state employees union fell 70 percent,”  wrote David Dayen in Salon. “….Overall, union membership in Wisconsin has fallen to 11.7 percent, down from 16 percent 10 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

Jobs and Debt? “When he took office in 2011, Walker said the creation of 250,000 jobs would be his benchmark for success, the Chicago Tribune reported. “Walker missed that goal by a wide margin over his first term despite an embrace of sweeping tax cuts aimed at stimulating growth. Instead, the cuts helped dig a more than $2 billion hole in the state budget.

“Wisconsin ranked 36th among the states and District of Columbia in the pace of private-sector job growth during Walker’s term, trailing all Rust Belt states and all but one other state in the Midwest.”

Things that turn around? “At the close of 2010, a year and a half after the recession officially ended, Wisconsin could claim one of the better economic recoveries in the country,” wrote Bloomberg View’s Christopher Flavell.

“Employment had grown at a faster clip than in most states, and the value of Wisconsin’s publicly traded companies was up almost 40 percent. Tax revenue, a sign of economic health, had risen more than 50 percent.

“Then Scott Walker became governor. Over the four years that followed, Wisconsin’s economic performance ranked 35th in the country, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States, which tracks the change in a series of economic indicators.”

Dayen also wrote that worker voices can play a huge role in the growth of wages. “Scott Walker has taken that voice away from public unions, and effectively the entire Wisconsin labor movement, which finds itself crippled. That has real consequences for middle-class wages. Since Walker wants to bring this policy menu to the rest of the country in 2016, people on Main Streets outside of Wisconsin should take note.”

in 2015, Kentucky union members who don’t “take note” do so at the peril of their unions and their livelihoods. Walker’s Wisconsin looks like Bevin’s blueprint for Kentucky.

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