Booker raises a glass to unions – and you can do it too

Berry Craig
Berry Craig


Charles Booker is raising a whiskey glass to organized labor.

The union-made tumbler is available to anybody who chips in $20 or more to his campaign for next year’s Democratic senatorial nomination.

“A percentage of the proceeds will go toward supporting the workers from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union who took significant risks and fought hard for the benefits and protections they deserve at Heaven Hill,” the candidate explained in a new fund-raising email.

A former Louisville state representative, Booker wants Sen. Rand Paul’s job. Booker is the favorite in the May 17 primary race so far. But the filing deadline isn’t until Jan. 7.

Meanwhile, Booker says "cheers" to union members “from the folks who make Heaven Hill bourbon here in Kentucky to the workers at John Deere." They're all workers who "are claiming their power. And winning," he added.

Booker visited the picket line at Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown where 420-strong UFCW Local 23D agreed to a contract after they spent six weeks on strike. “So we’re celebrating and raising a glass to the workers who fought hard for this victory with some brand new merch — Booker for Kentucky Bourbon glasses,” he said.

“CHARLES BOOKER FOR U.S. SENATE” is etched on one side. “THIS BOURBON IS UNION MADE” is on the other side.

So are the tumblers, according to Communications Director Meredith Scalos. "The glasses are made in the U.S.A. by Libbey Glass," she said. "Their workers are repped by the United Steelworkers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The etching was done by a Communications Workers of America repped shop."

Senate candidate Charles Booker with Heaven Hill workers on strike
Senate candidate Charles Booker with Heaven Hill workers on strike (photo by Booker campaign)

“Over the years, I’ve been proud to stand on the picket lines with teachers, on the railroad tracks with coal miners, and with workers at Churchill Downs," Booker said. "Together, we held the line for fair wages, the right to unionize, sick days and paid family leave, and for a shot at bettering our children’s future."

Unions say Paul, a two-term Bowling Green Republican, is one of the most anti-union lawmakers in Washington. Since he arrived in 2011, he has voted the union position on issues 12 percent of the time, according to the AFL-CIO’s legislative scorecard. (Sen. Mitch McConnell scores the same.)

Paul and McConnell favor a national “right to work” law. They cheered the Republican-majority Kentucky legislature and GOP Gov. Matt Bevin for making Kentucky a RTW state in 2017.

Booker opposes RTW at the national and state level. Paul reintroduced a National Right to Work Act in February.

Under a right to work law, workers in a union shop can enjoy union-won wages and benefits without joining the union or paying the union a service fee to represent them. The idea is to weaken strong unions, destroy small unions, and keep workers from organizing.

RTW “has proven to reduce worker pay and put more money in the pockets of the rich,” Booker said. “Together, we must stand up to politicians like Rand and the companies who are benefiting from his anti-union agenda."

Booker said he huddled with Heaven Hill strikers because he “understood how important it was to support the workers" as they demanded "that executives support the people who make this industry the bedrock of Kentucky’s economy.”

Twenty percent of a donation for a glass “will go toward the United Food and Commercial Workers Union so that they can continue taking on big fights,” the email says.

Want a glass? Click here.

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)


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