The Electrical Worker online
December 2019

From the Officers
index.html Home    print Print    email Email

Go to
Message Sent

Union voters in Kentucky and Virginia sent a clear message on Election Day last month: Ignore our issues at your peril.

Kentucky has been trending Republican for years now. But Kentucky is still a union state, and union families had enough of Gov. Matt Bevin's attacks on workers' rights, health care and pensions.

Following in the footsteps of former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Bevin prioritized repealing prevailing wage, passing right-to-work, and attacking public-sector workers, especially teachers.

But the Kentucky labor movement and the IBEW didn't take it lying down. We focused on educating our members and getting out the vote for Attorney General Andy Beshear who, in one of the highest turnout elections the Bluegrass State has seen in years, defeated Bevin on Nov. 5.

And while the labor movement has historically been much weaker in neighboring right-to-work Virginia, union voters there played a critical role in electing a pro-worker majority in both legislative houses.

Here's why last month's election is so important. Not only did union voters help defeat known opponents of labor, we helped elect candidates who openly spoke to our issues and priorities.

Andy Beshear made it clear that he supports the repeal of right-to-work and the re-establishment of a state prevailing wage law. He also vowed to nominate a card-carrying union member as his Labor Secretary.

And in Virginia, labor-backed candidates openly talked about raising wages, expanding health care coverage, and even repealing the state's more than 70-year-old right-to-work law.

For the IBEW, the issue is not whether you are a Democrat or Republican, a liberal or conservative. It's whether you are pro- or anti-worker. And you can't be pro-worker if you're anti-union.

And that theme resonated in both conservative, rural communities in Kentucky and in more liberal Virginia suburbs on Election Day.

Voters in both states made it clear that they were fed up with politicians more interested in attacking workers' rights and handing out tax cuts to the rich than investing in their communities and good jobs.

They wanted a government that took the side of working people, not the top 1 percent or big-money special interests.

Of course, Election Day is only the first step. We still need to bring pressure on all newly elected officials to keep their promises.

But November's election were signs that the victories the labor movement scored in 2018 weren't flukes. They once again prove that when union members get active and vote, labor can make a positive change and elect politicians who are focused on putting the government on the side of working people.

It's on us as IBEW members to keep that momentum going in 2020 as well.


Also: Stephenson: Building the Grid of the Future Read Stephenson's Column

Kenneth W. Cooper

Kenneth W. Cooper
International Secretary-Treasurer