News Unfiltered Digest: Kucinich wins Grassroots Poll, Democratic Governors Congratulate Beshear

The latest releases up on News Unfiltered may interest the community. The Kucinich campaiagn announced its first-place finish in last night's Democracy for America poll
Of the 150,000-plus ballots cast, Kucinich received more votes than former Senator John Edwards and Senator Barack Obama combined. Kucinich tallied 49,364 (31.97%), compared with Edwards' 24,078 (15.6%), Obama's 21,403 (13.86%), and Senator Hillary Clinton's 6,504 (4.21%)... Undeclared write-in candidate and former Vice President Al Gore scored second nationally with 24.77% of the vote, and he "won" six states: New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Florida. Kucinich came in second in each of those six states.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Governor's Association congratulated congratulated Kentucky Gov. elect Steve Beshear

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Day Three on the Bluegrass Express Highlights Civil Rights, Labor History

As the Bluegrass Express bus tour continued to roll through Kentucky on Tuesday, a quick change of plans relocated our afternoon leaflet stops from Madisonville to Paducah, in far-western Kentucky. Although western Kentucky often is seen as an area that's less than friendly toward unions, bus volunteer Jeff Wiggins, who is president of the Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council, treated me, Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan and AFL-CIO Field Representative Don Slaiman to a very different glimpse of the rich history of the area's labor movement.

The city of Paducah has a mile-long mural painted along a flood wall next to the Ohio River. In 2004, artist Herb Roe added a panel depicting the city's annual Labor Day parade, which was first held in 1892. The mural depicts a parade in the mid 1970s with a massive crowd of local labor activists, including W.C. Young carrying a giant "Solidarity" banner through the city's streets.

Young, who hailed from Paducah, and died in 1996, was a nationally known labor and civil rights leader. He began as a member of the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks in 1941, when Jim Crow racial segregation and discrimination were the law and the social order in western Kentucky. Throughout his life, Young worked tirelessly to change this state of affairs, dedicating himself to the common causes of organized labor and the civil rights. He was a leader in the NAACP, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and the AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education and journeyed to South Africa in the 1990s to protest apartheid.

I was very moved to see the mural, a beautiful testament to the incredible transformational effect Young and others in the labor movement have had on the American society in the past decades. That evening, while we distributed leaflets at the massive Gerdau Ameristeel plant in nearby Calvert City, I made a special effort to reach out and have conversations with the steelworkers coming in and out of the plant, rather than simply hand them the leaflets as they walked by. I wanted to hear their stories and to learn more about how union members in western Kentucky continue to change their society for the better to this very day.  

I felt sure that the workers I spoke to were keeping Young's wise and simple words alive:

You are supposed to love your brother and sister. That's the way it is with the union movement.

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Elvis, Weather, and Kentucky Elections

Kentucky rain keeps pourin' down, and up ahead's another town, that I'll go walkin' thru, with the rain in my shoes...searchin' for you, in the cold Kentucky rain.

So sang Elvis Presley about the harsh weather that, unfortunately for the first few stops of the Bluegrass Express union-member mobilization tour, Kentucky occasionally experiences.

Last night's worksite leaflet stop at the Commonwealth Aluminum plant in Hawesville and this morning's stop at the massive Century Aluminum plant in Lewisport would have been rained out if it weren't for the absolute dedication of the volunteers who spent hours handing out leaflets to steelworkers leaving and arriving at the plants.

Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan, Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council President Jeff Wiggins, UAW Local 2370 President Tim Smith, AFL-CIO field representative Don Slaiman, United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9443 President Richard Hass and yours truly stood outside the plant gates in the dark, amidst the wind and rain, rain and even more rain, to distribute information on incumbent Gov. Ernie Fletcher's disastrous history of hurting working families.

All told, the leaflets were a success. We distributed hundreds of fliers, and almost all the workers we spoke to were receptive and friendly. But, ironically, many of them remarked on our dedication to stand out in the rain. The subtext to their comments seemed to be an unanswered question: "Why go through so much bother?"

An answer came easily to Smith. A big grin on his face, he said:

I love doing this! The reason we're out here is to reach out to our members.  Reach out to our members and let them know how important it is to get out and vote November the 6.  

To Tim Smith, it's just that simple. Communication among members is the only way unions can effect positive change in the political arena.  If we want the government's policies to address our concerns--health care, good jobs, retirement security and the dozens of others--then we have to make sure that union members are informed and elect good candidates to positions of power. And if it takes a sopping-wet leaflet or two, or 200,000, that's no trouble at all.

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Paid for by AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education Treasury Fund.

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Bluegrass Express Sets Off Across Kentucky Today (Yesterday)

Toot! Toot! Look out, Kentucky, the Bluegrass Express is coming through!  

Starting today, the "It's Our Time" Bluegrass Express tour is taking off to mobilize union members to elect working family-friendly candidates in the upcoming statewide elections. The Bluegrass Express bus will travel hundreds of miles, criss-crossing the state and stopping several times a day at worksites in Ashland, Calvert City, Elizabethtown, Hazard, Lexington, Madisonville and dozens of other Kentucky towns.

I'll be on the bus, along with Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan, Mine Workers political coordinator Steve Earle, UAW Labor 2007 coordinator Danny Ernestes, AFL-CIO field representative Don Slaiman and many other elected officials, labor leaders and union volunteers along the way. We will stop at worksites ranging from steel mills to call centers, auto plants to hospitals, coal mines to colleges, not to mention rail yards, power plants and fire stations, to pass out leaflets and talk to union members about what's at stake--vital issues, including health care, good jobs and the freedom to form and join unions.

We won't be getting much sleep, for sure, but we will be energizing union members in the final few weeks before the election to steer Kentucky away from the middle-class disaster course that Gov. Ernie Fletcher put them on!

Says Londrigan:  

This is our time. We're doing whatever it takes to make sure that on Nov. 6, elected officials will hear the voice of Kentucky working families loud and clear.

I'll be sending in daily blog reports from the road, look for them here. Toot, toot!  

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Paid for by AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education Treasury Fund.

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167 Union Volunteers in Action Across Kentucky

167 Union Volunteers in Action Across Kentucky [BLOG.AFLCIO.ORG]   

In one of the largest statewide labor walks ever held in Kentucky, 167 union activists walked door to door Saturday to talk with union members about the upcoming election in which Steve Beshear is challenging anti-worker Gov. Ernie Fletcher for office.  

Despite Beshear's 20-point lead in the polls, union members in Kentucky are not sitting back. Fletcher has canceled bargaining rights for state employees, privatized Kentucky's Medicaid program and pushed to repeal the prevailing wage law and implement anti-union "right to work" for less legislation. Beshear opposes so-called "right to work" legislation and has affirmed his support of safeguards for the prevailing wage, employee bargaining, the need for affordable health care and good jobs.

After our state kickoff walk last week in which more than 400 volunteers went door to door in Jefferson County, we continue to knock on thousands of union doors across the state, with walks this weekend in Lexington, Louisville, Owensboro, Paducah and Pikeville.

In Paducah, where 34 volunteers turned out, Jeff Wiggins, Northern Kentucky AFL-CIO Labor Council president, notes:
"I've been the Northern Kentucky Central Labor Council President since 2000, this is the largest labor walk we've ever held in Paducah."

Union members taking part in the Paducah walk include: AFSCME, AFT, Alliance for Retired Americans, Fire Fighters (IAFF), IronWorkers, Operating Engineers, Painters and Allied Trades, UAW and United Steelworkers (USW).

Tim Smith, coordinator of the area that includes Owensboro, said the walk there was "larger than any Labor 2004 or Labor 2006 labor walk--and it is only the first one so far this year."
Members from the Electrical Workers (IBEW), Operating Engineers (IUOE), the Kentucky Education Association, Mine Workers (UMWA), Sprinkler Fitters, Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA), UAW and USW took part.  

Donnie Colston, coordinator for the area that includes Louisville, said, "Despite more than 400 walkers last week for our kickoff, nearly 60 more union volunteers showed up this week to walk with us again." Colston concludes:
Union members refuse to take anything for granted.  
Those union members are part of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), IBEW, Laborers (LIUNA), Machinists (IAM), UAW, USW, Working America and more.

Meanwhile in Lexington, where 42 volunteers turned out, area coordinator Mike Donta said:
"This is the one of the largest walks we've ever had in Lexington."

Members of AFT, Carpenters, CWA, IAFF, IBEW, Iron Workers, LIUNA, Office and Professional Employees, UAW, USW and Utility Workers (UWUA) all took part.

Pikeville's 10 volunteers were part of history, said coordinator Eddie Bowling:
"This is first time we've ever held a labor walk in all Eastern Kentucky. "

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