May 022012

By Richard Becker

In November 2011, shortly after beginning a new career as a labor organizer with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), I received a call from an employee of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.  He wanted me to meet with some employees in the Division of Waste Management.  He said there would be about a half a dozen individuals who wanted to ask me some questions about organizing and what it would mean for them.  So I packed up my things, brought a few union cards and one sign-in sheet and made for the meeting place.

When I arrived I realized I had come gravely unprepared.  There weren’t just a handful of workers—there were close to one hundred of them packing our small meeting room.  They kept me busy for the next two hours with a whirlwind of questions, comments, concerns, and calls to action.  Workers poked and prodded each other to speak up, speak out, and get involved.  They shouted out ideas and suggestions, and signed up to help organize.  Leaving the meeting that day I felt flushed, exhilarated and, for the first time in months, like there was a real and tangible purpose to the work I was doing.

Baxter Leach and Cynthia Hart, past and present AFSCME Local 1733. Photo courtesy Richard Becker.

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May 072010

Kent State at UK, Part III

By Richard Becker

With the old Air Force ROTC building on Euclid Avenue a smoldering pile of ash and wood, on May 6, 1970, UK students continued their demonstrations against the university and the illegally expanding war in Vietnam. Nationally, the fallout from the murder of four students at Kent State University by the National Guard on May 4 was beginning to intensify. A number of colleges and universities experienced student unrest in the form of campus demonstrations, property destruction and pitched run-ins with local police and national guard units. Continue reading »

Apr 222010

Kent State at UK, part II

By Richard Becker

In Spring of 1970, the Richard Nixon Administration began to expand the war in Indochina beyond the borders of Vietnam into Laos and Cambodia. Antiwar sentiment had already been simmering for years in the United States, particularly among students. This was no less true right in the heart of the Midwest at Kent State University where, forty years ago on May 4, 1970, several dozen rifle shots changed the course of American history and galvanized opposition to the war in Vietnam.

That day, on May 4, students at Kent gathered on campus—as their compatriots at schools across America did—to demonstrate against the US incursion into Laos and Cambodia. Continue reading »