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Rapidly Responding to ‘Right to Work’

Chris Ormes

When Chris Ormes, president of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1241 in Bardstown, Ky., heard a "right to work" for less speaker was heading his way, he opted for his own “rapid response.” Says Ormes: 

The local Republican Women's Club invited Alan Blincoe of Kentucky Citizens for Right to Work to one of their meetings. I called Leo Downs and Wanda Riney from our local. All three of us went.

The USW has a grassroots, nonpartisan Rapid Response program designed to inform and mobilize union members when bills concerning labor and work-related issues are pending in state legislatures and Congress, Ormes said.

Ormes, Riney and Downs rapidly responded to the union-buster. 

Ormes figured the GOP faithful—about a dozen or so women and men, the latter mostly spouses of club members—would summarily show the union trio the door. "Instead of asking us to leave, they said we were welcome to stay.”

That’s not all. After Ormes introduced himself as head of the union at Bardstown’s American Fuji Seal plant, the Republicans bade him to have his say when Blincoe was finished.

Blincoe's comments might have been a tad too candid, according to Ormes.

He said his group wanted to bring "right to work" to Kentucky but under the radar. He said he didn’t want unions to know what they were doing.

Ormes explained to the group that so-called right to work laws amount to freeloading because they permit employees at a unionized workplace to enjoy union-won wages and benefits without belonging to the union and paying union dues.

Ormes added that "right to work" laws are bad for economies. On average, workers in "right to work" states make less than workers in states that permit union security agreements, he said.

I asked them, 'How would taking $150 to $200 weekly from over 1,000 union households in Bardstown and Nelson County benefit our community?'

Ormes said Blincoe skedaddled as soon as the meeting ended. "He talked for about two minutes to the woman who invited him. He didn’t stick around to take any questions.”

But people—including the county Republican chairman—came up to me and thanked me for coming and educating them. I think I convinced all but three of them.

Unbeknownst to Ormes, a Kentucky Standard reporter was in the crowd. "She interviewed me and said she’d put what I said in the paper, too.”

Ormes guesses Blincoe might be a little skittish the next time he speaks to another presumably anti-union gathering.

He’s got to be wondering if there’ll be any union members in the audience. I’d love to follow him everywhere he goes. 

Berry Craig, recording secretary for the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council and a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, is a former daily newspaper and Associated Press columnist and currently a member of AFT Local 1360.
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