Tower of Power: New Radio Program Is the 'Voice of Working Men and Women' in KY

Charles Showalter paraphrases Mark Twain when he hears somebody preach the funeral of unions and union radio.

“The reports of our death are greatly exaggerated,” says Showalter, host of The Union Edge: Labor’s Talk Radio, based in Pittsburgh.

Showalter, 50, takes exception to a recent Politico story that says “the golden age of unions is long gone – and for the radio shows that focus on labor and workers[’] rights, every day is a struggle just to stay on the airwaves.”

He acknowledges that The Union Edge, part of WFRN – Working Family Radio Network — is the country’s only nationally-syndicated labor radio program.  “But The Union Edge is growing and we are on 18 stations from Washington, D.C., to Washington state.”

Showalter is proud of his new broadcasting partnership with the Kentucky State AFL-CIO. “We’re producing The Workers’ Voice, a two-hour Saturday morning talk show that features interviews, commentary and union news.”

Two commercial radio stations are airing the program, WNDA 1570 AM in Louisville, and WLRS 1600 AM in Eminence. WLRS’s broadcasting area including Frankfort, the state capital, says Showalter, who packs a Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Radio and Television Artists card.

Both stations broadcast the Workers’ Voice on Saturdays from 9-11 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time.

Showalter says that The Workers’ Voice is doing so well that it will likely expand to a live, three-hour, Monday-through-Friday format.  “Feedback from union members and from station management has been great.”

Bill Londrigan, state AFL-CIO president, could hardly be happier with the program. “It’s our voice on the radio – the voice of working men and women.”

Londrigan conducts many of the show’s interviews, mostly by telephone. “We’ve had some interesting guests, such as Kip Phillips, an international vice president with the Steelworkers who is from Kentucky, and labor’s good friend, Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville.

The Workers’ Voice can also be heard via live streaming on a computer or a mobile phone and on podcasts at workersvoice.libsyn.com/webpage. “We encourage listeners to use social media to get the word out about The Workers’ Voice and share the insightful interviews,” Londrigan says.

But don’t expect the venom and vitriol common on right-wing radio and TV, says Showalter, an air force veteran of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

The Workers’ Voice and The Union Edge are not the anti-Rush Limbaugh or anti-Glenn Beck. Yes, we are robust, but we are always respectful. We don’t get into personal attacks and name calling.

“Our audience is not just union members. We reach out to people I like to call the ‘not yet union.’”

The Union Edge is on three hours a day Monday through Friday. “You can also listen to us via live streaming and podcasting. Go to our website, www.theunionedge.com, and click ‘Listen Live’ or ‘Podcasts’ any time,” Showalter says, adding that programs are archived.

Showalter operates out of a little studio in the Steel City, his hometown. His executive producer and engineer is Angela Baughman, a member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 5.

She, too, disagrees that the heyday of unions is gone forever. “To me, there's one clear indication that the labor movement is alive. People who are not affiliated with traditional unions are standing up for themselves all over the country – fast food workers, retail workers and Occupy Wall Street, for example.

“People are recognizing that something is very wrong, and that this country's income disparity is out of control. We just need to connect the dots for them — show them that unions can be an effective way to solve the problem.”

She adds that union radio can be a great dot connector.

Meanwhile, Showalter and Baughman admit that they don’t have the money or the listenership that Limbaugh and Beck have. “Though we are growing, donations are nice,” he says with a grin. 

“You can also help us grow by tuning in, putting a link to us on your website, downloading our free app, joining our mailing list and telling your friends about us.”

He hopes The Union Edge and The Workers’ Voice will move listeners to educate themselves on issues important to working people, to register to vote, to vote and to get active in the political process.

“But do not believe me or anybody else just because we are on the radio,” Showalter says. “Do your own homework.”

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