Jefferson County KFTC member, Cassia Herron, represented the organization at The Rally to Move Forward in Louisville on January 21, 2017– one of several local marches that took place across the state in solidarity with the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. KFTC organizer Alicia Hurle sat down with Cassia to learn more about her thoughts on leadership development within KFTC and how she approached having the opportunity to speak to such a large audience at what feels like a historically significant moment. Click here to listen to Cassia's speech.
Why do you identify yourself as a community organizer?
From a grade school student who rallied my peers to challenge our prejudice teacher to a student at the University of Louisville who worked on improving the conditions on campus for students of color, I have always been a community organizer. It has been a natural position for me as my peers and colleagues have looked to me to represent a particular position or idea, to rally others in support of it and move us collectively toward action to remedy it. I have had the opportunity to receive professional organizing training from union organizers and Highlander Center trainers as well as working with Community Farm Alliance and now KFTC. Of course I’m biased, but I feel these are the best organizers in the south and certainly in Kentucky, and I’m proud to be a product of their great work.
Research from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy shows wages are roughly $1,500 lower in right-to-work states, and promises of job growth from the policy are particularly hollow. A repeal of the prevailing wage needs no research to show it will lower wages and often encourages out-of-state companies to take bids away from Kentucky workers.
As KFTC members work to design a new, clean energy system for our state, we want principles of environmental justice and health equity to be at the front and center of our process and plan. Developing an Environmental Justice analysis is one important step we are taking to better understand which communities in our state are most affected by pollution, poor health, economic inequality and racial injustice.
Kentucky’s state colleges and universities are reeling from Governor Matt Bevin’s unilaterally imposed 2 percent late fiscal year budget cut, and in the face of 4.5 percent budget cuts as of July 1, and another 4.5 percent cut again next year. (The state’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.)
Here are some impacts so far:
Morehead State University’s employees are on unpaid furlough for five days, and 65 positions have been cut.
The University of Kentucky is expecting to lay off 90 staff. UK also is rolling back its subsidies for county extension agents’ benefits. County governments, if they can, will be expected to make up the difference.
Eastern Kentucky University is implanting a 5 percent tuition increase, a hiring freeze and reducing employee benefits.
Murray State University is eliminating 42 positions.
Northern Kentucky University is eliminating 105 positions.
And the Kentucky Community and Technical College system is losing 506 positions across the state.
June 6 is the first Innovation Summit hosted by SOAR [Shaping Our Appalachian Region]. It’s a milestone for eastern Kentucky to have a state and federal platform that is focused on creative avenues for economic growth. In fact, innovation is the bedrock to our country’s 21st century economy and frankly eastern Kentucky has a lot to prove if we are to compete.
Support from the federal government has gone a long way in helping our region contribute to this country’s innovation boom. Unfortunately, that money has been slow in coming, or is being wasted on other things. For example, Congress, with the help of Congressman Hal Rogers, recently allocated $444 million to Letcher County – but the money won’t be spent on innovation or community-driven solutions. It will be spent on bringing a federal prison here.