Dave Suetholz says he got fed up with “the right wing’s effective use of the echo chamber through its network of reactionary think tanks and media.”
So the Kentucky labor lawyer climbed aboard his American-made Ford pickup truck and drove across the Bluegrass State seeking support for a Kentucky Labor Institute (KLI).
His travels bore fruit. Says Sy Slavin, Ph.D., KLI acting director:
If you look at the seven months since we have been in operation, the record is impressive. More than 60 articles supporting labor have been published in blogs around the country. We have had an op-ed piece in the Lexington Herald-Leader.
We endorsed protest efforts by unions in Wisconsin, Ohio and Kentucky. We have developed a labor history curriculum. We have had two sessions on labor history conducted by two of our board members—one at a UAW hall in Bowling Green and another at the recent Young Democrats of America biennial national convention in Louisville.
In addition, KLI board members distributed literature and talked up the organization at large Labor Day celebrations in Paducah and in Louisville. In addition, the KLI sponsored a Sept. 20 program in Louisville that featured a panel discussion and a labor art display.
Suetholz, a 33-year-old native Kentuckian and general counsel for the Kentucky Labor Cabinet, aimed to team up union activists with academics like Slavin, a retired University of Louisville professor. Suetholz explains:
As a relatively young lawyer who cares about the labor movement—both its legacy and mission for the future—I am troubled by my generation’s lack of understanding of labor’s righteous past. I know many wonderful academics in Kentucky who believe in and defend the labor movement. The blending of my concern and their insight led to KLI.
Based in Louisville, the KLI is a nonprofit corporation which seeks “to educate working people and the public about the history of workers’ movements, to assess the current conditions of workers in Kentucky…to offer recommendations for improving those conditions” and “to help forge a strong alliance between the union movement and academics for the benefit of all Kentucky workers.”
The board of directors includes progressive labor leaders, academics, social justice activists and retirees from across Kentucky. Suetholz says the group reflects “the rich racial, ethnic, cultural and religious diversity of the Bluegrass State.”
Board members include Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, who says:
The primary benefit of the KLI is to improve our ability to deliver education and information about the union movement and workers’ rights to a broader spectrum of society as well as to workers who haven’t been exposed to unions very much. We are grateful for Dave’s hard work, dedication and foresight in organizing the KLI.
Along with labor history, the KLI offers short courses on union-media relations. Suetholz hopes the KLI’s curriculum will expand to encompass labor law, economics and other topics important to union members. “KLI is born and is directed by righteous people,” he says. “We’ll see what it grows up to be.”
The bottom line is this: We are a Kentucky think tank responding to all of the right-wing think tanks which pollute the political process with their corporate ideologies. We also generate new ideas and new approaches for trade union thinking and action in Kentucky and around the country.
More information about the KLI is available from Slavin at 2551 Woodbourne Ave., Louisville, KY 40205. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out the KLI at: www.kentuckylaborinstitute.org.