Labor unions are reaching approval ratings and enthusiasm levels not seen in decades. This can partially be credited to working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also because workers now understand their worth and demand better pay and safer work environments.
Although Kentucky is not the most union-friendly state, the labor movement is gaining traction there, as more people are seeing the value of unions. Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan joined AWF Union Podcast to discuss unions in his state, striking coal miners in Alabama and the message they are sending workers throughout the U.S.
Vaccination rates in Kentucky
Kentucky has lagged in vaccination rates due to mixed messages from political leaders and a skeptical population. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has begun encouraging people to get vaccinated after months of sending mixed signals.
Londrigan believes the push from Sen. McConnell and other skeptics within the state are too little too late, as the pandemic could have been contained sooner if they encouraged vaccinations from the start. Misinformation and politicization of the vaccine set in, further confusing residents.
The power of unions
Kentucky is not a historically union friendly state. Londigran believes a strong union presence helps keep workers happy, as it affords them the resources to obtain family supporting wages and quality benefits.
Any work environment can become dangerous, as discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Londigran encouraged workers to join unions and get the protections needed to work safely. Throughout the country, unions have made workplaces safer.
Conversation then turned to passage of the PRO Act, which he said will make it easier for workers to form unions. Under current laws, employers face few consequences for breaking labor laws. Passage of the PRO Act will change this through better enforcement and stiffer penalties.
Striking Warrior Met coal miners
Londigran said there is a war against workers, and the Kentucky AFL-CIO supports those who are putting up a fight. They are sending a large group of trade unionists to Alabama to stand in solidarity with the Warrior Met coal workers who have been out of work for nearly four months.
The Kentucky AFL-CIO stands with the workers after they were denied the promise of increased pay, better benefits and a fair contract. For years, the workers took cuts with the promise those benefits would eventually return. Instead of keeping that promise, the company turned their back on the workers once they were making a profit.
The strike is beginning to pick up steam, as hundreds of people recently protested BlackRock, the hedge fund who owns Warrior Met. The group demonstrated in the street outside the BlackRock headquarters on Wall Street, drawing media attention to the issue.