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These Guns Pull to the Right

Photo by Gage Skidmore Flckr/Creative Commons

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) just got a “Defender of Freedom” award from the National Rifle Association.

No doubt the Senate minority leader figures the “attaboy” from the gun group, plus an all but certain NRA endorsement, might help him con some gun-owning union members into voting for him next November.

Naturally, he hopes union men and women who enjoy hunting and shooting sports won’t find out how tight NRA bigwigs are with the union-haters who run the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC), a group that has been waging unholy war against us for years.

The NRTWC loves the anti-union McConnell. He even wants a national "right to work" for less law patterned after state "right to work" laws, which allow hourly employees in unionized companies to enjoy union-won wages and benefits without paying dues to support the union. 

"Right to work" laws—unions call them "right to work for less laws"—are designed to weaken large unions, destroy small unions and keep workers from organizing unions.

Kentucky’s senior senator has voted the union position on legislation just 12% of the time since he took office in 1985, according to the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education. His 2012 COPE rating was zero.

Oh, McConnell’s NRA admirers claim they are “nonpartisan” and endorse candidates based only on their “record on Second Amendment issues.” 

But with few exceptions, the NRA and NRTWC back the same right-wing, anti-union Republicans who often use guns as an issue to split the union vote and “.…to divert workers from voting according to their economic interests and that of their families," wrote Joanne Ricca of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO.

She authored "Politics in America: The Right Wing Attack on the American Labor Movement." The article has been out for a while, but it is still timely. Documented with many footnotes, you can find it online here.

Ricca quoted Neal Knox, a former NRA head, who bragged that "[the gun issue] is the one thing that will spin the blue-collar union member away from his union." Says Ricca: "The right sees [gun control] as a particularly clever way to prevent workers from following the candidate endorsements of their union.”

Unions endorse candidates “based on economic interests of their members,” Ricca explains. Those issues led the Kentucky State AFL-CIO to unanimously endorse Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell's expected Democratic challenger in next year’s Senate race. 

Bill Londrigan, Kentucky State AFL-CIO president, introduced her to a hall full of cheering delegates at the labor federation’s recent 30th biennial convention in Louisville.

So-called gun rights are another wedge issue successfully used by the right-wing ultra-rich to divide the working class. They succeed when they convince working folks that being able to purchase an assault weapon is more important than having a good job and a union contract, without which workers might end up having to use their weapons to feed their families instead of for sport.

When workers fall for such trickery, Londrigan adds, they end up voting against their interests and the interests of their families. As a result, the communities where they live suffer “as wages and living conditions decline.”

Muses Londrigan: “I’ll bet there’s a lot of gun owners out there right now wondering if they can afford ammo this hunting season, thanks to the anti-union, anti-worker policies of the politicians many of them helped elect.”   

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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