Weekend mornings are usually quiet in Frankfort.

But shortly before 10 a.m. Saturday, an International Brotherhood of Teamsters 18-wheeler led a noisy caravan of horn-honking moving vans through the capital city.

The drivers parked on Capitol Ave. and dismounted to join a “Vote ‘Em Out, Move ‘Em Out” rally on the Capitol steps.

Not coincidentally, the program was scheduled for exactly 30 days before election day.

“We’re here today to send a message—a visual message—that on Nov. 6 there will be a lot of folks moving out of this building behind us,” said Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan. He emceed the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition-sponsored gathering.

We’re here today to send a message—a visual message—that on Nov. 6 there will be a lot of folks moving out of this building behind us.” – Bill Londrigan, president of KY AFL-CIOClick To Tweet
Emcee Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president
Emcee Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president

Rally-goers braved a blazing sun and unseasonably searing heat to listen to a parade of speakers who represented KPPC member organizations, United We Stand: Kentucky Government Employees, and KY 120 United.

Londrigan and others who trooped to the mike targeted Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and the GOP’s hefty House and Senate majorities.

Londrigan scorched “those people that voted against us. Those that voted for the sewer (pension) bill. Those that voted for right to work for less. Those that voted for prevailing wage repeal. Those that raised taxes on working people.”

Added Londrigan: “They all need to go, and we have the equipment right here to do it.”

Piled on the steps were cardboard “moving boxes” marked with messages such as “THIRTY DAYS HATH SEPTEMBER” and “NOVEMBER 6 WE’LL REMEMBER.”

—— Related: KY Moving Party Photo Gallery ——

“Remember in November” has become an unofficial slogan of the state AFL-CIO and other union groups. “It’s resonating well with voters,” said Bill Finn, Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council state director.

Bo Johnson agreed. “We’re here today to let the politicians in that building know that come Nov. 6, we’ll be ready to move their butts out,” said the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Indiana-Kentucky Council 962 organizing staff representative.

The speaker’s lineup included Johnson’s union sister, Sue Foster. She’s president of AFSCME Local 4011, the Jefferson County Association of Education Support Personnel, which is part of KPPC.

Foster came up with the idea of the trailer truck-moving van procession.

KPPC grew out of strong opposition to the GOP’s pension “reform” ideas. Everybody agrees that the pension systems are woefully underfunded.

But critics of the Republican proposals said they amounted to pension gutting and failed to fund the systems properly.

Thousands of teachers, other government workers and their allies, including union members, converged on the Capitol during this year’s legislative session. The rallies were some of the largest protests in state history.

No matter – as the legislative session wound down, House Republicans met behind closed doors, shut the Democrats out, converted an unrelated sewer bill into pension legislation, and teamed up with the Senate to steamroller the measure to passage.

The bill’s main feature forces teachers hired after Jan. 1 into a 401(k)-like hybrid cash-balance plan, instead of a traditional defined benefits plan.

Attorney Gen. Andy Beshear challenged the bill in circuit court, where a judge declared it unconstitutional. Bevin appealed, and the bill’s fate rests with the state Supreme Court.

Beshear, who has tossed his hat in the ring for governor, was at the rally but didn’t speak.

Neither did House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, who is often mentioned as another potential Democratic gubernatorial hopeful for next year. He and Beshear worked the crowd.

Brent McKim, Jefferson County Teachers Association
Brent McKim, Jefferson County Teachers Association

They heard Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, tell everybody that the “sewer-pension bill” would do “essentially nothing to help fund the pension system. All it does is harm benefits for future employees and prevents us from being able to attract quality teachers and other employees that will help our students succeed.

“That’s all it does. It does harm without doing anything to significantly benefit the system in terms of financial stability.”

Listeners frequently interrupted the speakers with cheers and applause. They also banged on inflatable black plastic “Thunder Sticks” that the Teamsters gave away.

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While the rally was going on, thousands of protestors in faraway Washington were urging the Senate not to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court.

The GOP majority brushed aside Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s credible accusation that he sexually assaulted her when she was a teenager and confirmed Kavanaugh, a U.S. federal Court of Appeals judge.

Ellen Suetholz, who helped organize the Frankfort rally, said she isn’t sure how the Kavanaugh controversy might affect Kentucky voters. Going on two Novembers ago, President Trump won all but Jefferson and Fayette counties and collected almost 63 percent of Bluegrass State ballots.

“It should help Democrats,” said Suetholz, whose husband, Dave, is running for the state Senate and whose father, Brent Yonts, is seeking to reclaim his old House seat. “But it is being spun in a way that seems to ignite the Republican base.

“I think that it should invigorate Democrats. But it is a sad day when a woman comes forward, a woman who has nothing to gain from coming forward, and is totally decimated, left in fear for her life, and has to relocate her family, all because she just wanted to tell the story of what happened to her.”

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Other speakers included Brian O’Neill, president of Louisville Professional Fire Fighters.

“A pension is a part of our pay and benefits package,” he said. “It is what was promised to us when we took these jobs in public service.”

He said when firefighters and other public employees are hired, they know they won’t “make a ton of money.” Even so, they understand that they will “make a decent living wage…[and] also be able to retire with dignity. That’s what [the Republicans]…are trying to take away.”

The rest of the speakers were Sue Ellen Caldwell, Kentucky Retired Teachers Association; Lea Collins, Kentucky Education Association; Christina Trosper, KY 120 United; Skyler Graudick, Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police and Katie Hancock, United We Stand: Kentucky Government Employees.

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Berry Craig
Berry Craig of Mayfield is a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College in Paducah and an author of five books on the Civil War in Kentucky. The last one, published by the University Press of Kentucky, is Kentucky’s Rebel Press: Pro-Confederate Media in the Civil War. His critically-acclaimed Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase, also from the University Press, has been reprinted in paperback.

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