Union divide: McConnell proposes 'right to work' bill as Grimes gets AFL-CIO's endorsement

11/05/2013 11:24 AM

Organized labor leaders pledged to back Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes — and step up their support against Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell — on Tuesday as McConnell introduced a right-to-work amendment in the U.S. Senate.

McConnell, joined by Kentucky’s other Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, sponsored the measure that would essentially end open-shops in which employees automatically were members of unions. Instead, workers would choose whether to join and pay dues to a labor union.

“It merely calls for repealing the discriminatory clauses in federal law that allow, as a condition of employment, forcing workers to join a union or forcing workers to pay union dues,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “In practical terms, here’s what that would mean for middle-class folks in Kentucky and across America: If you want to join a union, you can. And if you don’t want to join a union, you don’t have to. That’s it.”

At almost the same time nearly 500 miles away, Grimes received a warm welcome at the Kentucky AFL-CIO’s annual convention. Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky AFL-CIO, told the group of labor activists that endorsing Grimes a year before the election was the earliest the union has made a stand in a Kentucky U.S. Senate race. And he said it underscored the deep support for Grimes and strong opposition to McConnell. Union leaders say the measure will erode unions’ membership and, thus, their political power, which they say will hurt workers and their families.

“We’re going to use it like we always have,” Londrigan told reporters. “It’s no surprise to us that Mitch McConnell would come out and support this egregious piece of legislation that will disenfranchise millions of workers and lower their wages and weaken the unions.”

Grimes told reporters McConnell’s move “speaks to the … strict contrast” between the two. Here’s what she told reporters:

And here’s McConnell’s full floor speech on the legislation today:


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