Louisville - With open enrollment underway, older Americans are getting barraged with television ads, mailings and online notices hawking a variety of Medicare Advantage plans for health coverage. But many Kentuckians, including thousands of state retirees, are largely captive customers with such plans selected by their employer as part of health coverage promised for those 65 or older — an increasingly popular means to cover retirees. And members of such plans may have fewer choices for care because of ongoing contract disputes between Baptist Health and three national companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans in Kentucky including Louisville-based Humana, which covers most state retirees.
Every Friday for the past four weeks, Big 3 CEOs have waited fearfully for Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain to announce which plants will strike next. But without warning on Wednesday afternoon, the union threw a haymaker: within 10 minutes the UAW would be shutting down the vast Kentucky Truck Plant. This plant, on 500 acres outside Louisville, is one of Ford’s most profitable—cranking out full-size SUVs and the Superduty line of commercial trucks. “We make almost half of Ford’s U.S. revenue right here,” says James White, who has worked in the plant for a decade. These 8,700 strikers join the 25,000 already walking the lines at assembly plants and parts distribution centers across the country in the union’s escalating Stand-Up Strike.
Five hundred Auto Workers (UAW) from Local 862 held rallies in Louisville, Kentucky, August 24 and 25, part of a wave of practice pickets and rallies around the country. Class struggle was on everyone’s lips. A variety of issues brought them to the picket, but the auto workers there were unanimous about turbocharged wealth inequality leaving workers behind. At the Thursday picket, Local 862 member Aaron Webster said he’s grown tired of feeling squeezed, describing the contract fight as a fight between the rich and the poor. Webster started working at the Kentucky Truck Plant in 2014 building Ford Super Duty Trucks, Ford Expeditions, and Lincoln Navigators.
Jessica Bellamy wants to stop paying almost a thousand dollars a year to help displace the community that shaped her as a child: Louisville’s historically-Black Smoketown neighborhood. That’s the current property tax bill for the camelback shotgun house her grandmother gifted her a few years ago. It’s the house where Bellamy spent part of her childhood, just steps from her grandmother’s soul food restaurant, Shirley Mae’s Cafe. The restaurant, where Bellamy often took orders and served drinks over the years, is still hanging on as a neighborhood landmark. But like so many other homes in the redlined neighborhood, the house had gradually fallen into an unlivable state of disrepair.
The effort to unionize workers at the largest Amazon Air Hub in the world is going national. Local organizers with Unionize Amazon Northern Kentucky KCVG announced Saturday that they're joining forces with the national Amazon Labor Union, which unionized a Staten Island facility last year. They're also beginning to collect union authorization cards, which include signatures from employees confirming they want to take the issue to a vote. At least three dozen volunteers and members of the public rallied outside of the air hub Saturday afternoon, chanting and waiving signs with the workers' demands: a $30-an-hour starting wage, 180 hours of paid time off annually with no cap on accrued time and union representation against discipline.
Their effort to unionize really got underway in 2018 when thousands of workers came forward to allege wage theft totaling $100 million. Eventually the Department of Labor found wage and hour violations affecting 2,224 workers. The federal contractor at the time, General Dynamics Information Technology, agreed to pay $553,131 in back wages, according to a CWA spokesperson. Maximus bought the company out in November 2018. But despite the hefty settlement, the organizing began to fizzle because of high turnover. Then last year, workers walked off the job in Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Virginia in March, May, and November, demanding voluntary recognition of their union and higher pay.
Louisville, Kentucky - Private police officers guide a line of late-model SUVs through the January morning’s cold rain into a lane of Louisville’s Grinstead Avenue, specially cleared to ease their path to the entrance of Collegiate School. Brake lights shine through the gloom as children in plaid uniforms climb out and head inside. Collegiate, founded by a plantation-owning Kentucky family and led by a board president who is the heir to the Brown-Forman liquor dynasty, has an annual tuition of $26,000 per year. Just to the west of a new, modern Collegiate playground is the Yorktown Apartments, separated from school grounds by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire.
Beverly May, retired nurse practitioner and current epidemiologist at the University of Kentucky, lives maybe 100 feet from the house she grew up in Floyd County, Kentucky. She characterizes her community as “hillbilly country,” an area in central Appalachia that once served as a critical cog in the coal industry’s wheel. When historic floods ravaged the area in late July 2022, May decided to trade in her medical work for flood research and activism with the nonprofit community well-being organization Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. “I’ve lived here all my life, and I could not believe it when I saw helicopters going out to rescue people,” she says. “Never has there been this many deaths.”
Louisville, Kentucky - Employees at the only Trader Joe's store in Louisville voted in favor of organizing Thursday evening, becoming the third location of the national grocery chain to form a union. The store's workers will now be a part of the Trader Joe's United, the guild for employees across the country. The employees who voted in favor of unionizing won their vote 48-36, a release said, after taking action to do so in September. "We are so excited to be the first Trader Joe’s location affiliated with Trader Joe’s United in the south. It’s a game changing decision that will contribute massively to the modern labor movement," Connor Hovey, an employee of the store and union organizer, told The Courier Journal. A request for comment sent to Trader Joe's corporate Thursday night was not immediately returned.
Call center workers employed by Maximus went on strike at four locations—in Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Virginia—on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Maximus is a federal contractor, and during the open enrollment period, workers there handle a nonstop stream of high-stakes calls from people trying to navigate the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid systems, but they have been pushed to their limit. As stated in a Twitter thread posted by Call Center Workers United, “We’ve been saying for years: during ACA open enrollment, we’re dealing with constant back-to-back calls. Some frustrated callers become abusive and subject us to racist and sexist slurs. We’re paid wages so low it’s nearly impossible to support a family. We’ve had enough.
Louisville, KY - On Saturday, December 11 at 11:00 a.m. EST, Kentuckians for Single Payer Health Care and others will gather outside the headquarters of Humana, 500 W. Main St., Louisville, KY 40202 where they will demand an end to Medicare Direct Contracting, a program that could fully privatize Traditional fee-for-service Medicare without a vote by Congress. The protest with feature Steven Katz in full costume as the Grinch with the reading and performance of "How the Grinch Stole Medicare," an original poem from National Single Payer. Jill Harmer and the Single Payer Singers, Stephen Bartlett and his band, and singer, songwriter John Gage will perform holiday and health care music.
Around 400 union distillery workers in Bardstown, Kentucky, hit the picket line yesterday after rejecting a contract offer from Heaven Hill Distilleries, which included healthcare price hikes that reduce take-home pay, cuts to overtime, and drastic scheduling changes. Heaven Hill produces some of the most popular bourbon brands in the world, including Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, and Old Fitzgerald. According to the website Inc. Fact, the company averages annual profits of over $500 million. In this mini-cast, we talk with Matt Aubrey, president of UFCW Local 23D, to get an update on the strike and workers’ demands.
Hundreds rallied in downtown Louisville, Kentucky and marched through the streets on Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of the killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman who was gunned down in her own home by city police officers—none of whom have been charged for her death. "This is not a celebration. This is the anniversary of something that should not have happened," one speaker said at a Louisville event, where Taylor's family, racial justice activists, and ordinary members of the community gathered to mourn the loss of Breonna and demand action from lawmakers and police departments beyond the small-scale reforms that followed the March 2020 killing. While Louisville in June banned no-knock raids of the kind that led to Taylor's death, local activists say far more needs to be done to hold the officers responsible for Taylor's death account
A committee within the Kentucky State Senate has advanced a bill that would make insulting a police officer a misdemeanor crime. The proposal, which is part of a larger bill that includes a number of other provisions related to criminalizing activists’ behavior during uprisings and protest events, comes in the same week as the one-year anniversary of the police-perpetrated killing of Breonna Taylor, which, along with other unjust killings of Black Americans by police, prompted a number of uprisings over the course of the past year. The portion of the bill that would criminalize statements made to police officers would amend the state statute on “disorderly conduct” in public spaces. Any person who “accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words, or by gestures or other physical contact, that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response” in public would be guilty of disorderly conduct in the second degree, if the bill becomes law.
As much of Louisville remains under a layer of ice and with another winter storm on the way, the city is doing nothing to keep alive its homeless population, several advocates contended Saturday evening. Leaders from local homeless outreach organizations spoke in front of Hotel Louisville Saturday night, demanding city leaders address what they called a humanitarian crisis. Donny Greene, co-founder of Feed Louisville, said the city has given excuses for not helping people left outside in the below-freezing temperatures, contending there is no shelter space available. "The truth of the matter is the city is currently housing homeless people … in hotels in the city, and they have the ability to do that for everyone," Greene said.