I ran for the state legislature in the shadow of an intensely controversial legislative session that saw right-wing Gov. Bevin ram through so-called “pension reform,” gutting retirement benefits for public employees. Apparently startled by the backlash to his proposals, Bevin lobbed vitriolic insults at teachers and other public employees, calling them “selfish,” “thuggish,” and “ignorant and uninformed.”
Bevin’s push to make cuts to public employee retirement benefits came as teacher strikes swept the country, from West Virginia to Colorado. Inspired by their fellow educators across the country and angry over Bevin’s insults, Kentucky’s teachers shut down their schools for several days earlier this year and rallied in Frankfort, the capital.
To stand, as I did, on the steps of the Kentucky State Capitol amidst a sea of red — striking teachers, marching en masse on the legislature, wore red to symbolize solidarity (“Wear Red for Ed[ucation]”) — underscored one of the values we had set out to uphold on the campaign: that an organized working class is the most powerful political force you’ll find.