Kentucky becomes a ‘Right to Work’ state

Story by Matthew Parks, Staff writer

On Jan. 4, Kentucky House Republicans passed two bills targeting labor unions and officially making Kentucky a “Right to Work” state.

The new bills primarily affected labor unions in the state, as well as Kentucky’s prevailing wage law by:

  1. Banning union membership as a condition of employment.
  2. Banning employers from collecting union dues from workers’ paychecks without written consent from the employee.
  3. Preventing public employees from going on strike.
  4. Repealing Kentucky’s prevailing-wage law, which guaranteed higher wages for workers on construction projects paid with public money.

The battle over right to work laws has been ongoing for years, with both sides claiming that they are better for the worker. The issue has, however, been more prominent in Kentucky than in most states because unions primarily consist of construction and labor workers, a field that is more densely packed in Kentucky than in many other states.

Despite this, the staggering number of people involved in the issue had lead to a pseudo-stalemate for quite some time. After the November elections, however, Republicans in Kentucky’s House of Representatives gained a supermajority, and the bills passed quickly.

While only time will tell what effects this new legislation will have on the Kentucky labor industry, union workers and contract laborers are outraged by the new bills.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations claimed in one 2016 study that states with right to work legislation have lower wages and incomes, lower rates of health insurance coverage, higher poverty rates, and higher workplace fatality rates.

Supporters, however, argue that right to work laws help negate alleged corruption of labor unions and stop stagnation in the economy that they believe is created by prevailing wage laws.

According to the National Right to Work Foundation, which serves as a non-profit organization that provides free legal aid to employees, “whose human and civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses,” right to work laws protect employees.

The NRWF released a statement following the bill’s passing offering legal counsel to Kentucky employees wishing to utilize the new laws and explaining the new rights provided by them.

Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, released a similar statement thanking Governor Bevin and other legislators for making Kentucky a right to work state.

“The Kentucky Right to Work law will free tens of thousands of Kentucky workers who have been forced to pay tribute to a union boss just for the privilege of getting and keeping a job so they can provide for their families,” Mix said. “The law will also provide a much needed economic boost for Kentucky.”

1 Comment on "Kentucky becomes a ‘Right to Work’ state"

  1. Construction workers are a dying breed, theres not alot of citizens who care to put up with what construction workers put up with.just to list a few of the things i will enlighten to those who dont know what we do for our cities,countys,and communitys.We workers put in long hot days,public traffic commuters,which is very hazardous and life threatening everyday,the chemicals in our product”asphalt” ,and also a very hot material average temps.run in area of 360 to 400 degrees.As constuction workers we deal with rain,snow,delays sometimes which all effect the pay we bring home to our familys,which varies somtimes a few hundred dollars. We also as constuction workers are laid off an average of 3 months yearly,so we only have about 9 months usually to make what money we can ,so we as workers can budget and compisate for winter months. We are usually left with drawing unemployment which is a hassel in itself ,having to wait 3 weeks for first check which is supposed to be 2 weeks pay, and the state of Kentucky nows keeps 1 of those weeks which we as employee’s never see.Each week if your lucky pays a maximum of 415.00 before state,and federal taxes come off the top. The prevailing wage repeal by Kentuckys’ governor “Bevin ” puts even more stress on us as construction workers. The prevailing wage repeal takes away from my 401K retirement plan. We as workers were able to weekly on average to build our 401K accounts. But now we must on top of paying federal taxes, state Taxes,school taxes,insurance,ssi,small community taxes to preform our work in some of them,and what ever else comes out of our checks before we see them,we must also now try to put money in our 401k retirement plans. We help with our state,and city infastructure which everyone always complains about crumbling and falling apart. Think of this if we did not do the road work we do ,imagine what maintance you would have to put into your cars,and trucks. What would the community do without us ,putting in the long hot days,sacrificing our personal health, the possibility of being struck by a vehicle of any size at any given moment. It really is a shot and a spit in the face of us that do what we do as highway and rd. Constuction workers. Its like the governor saying “hey thanks for all that you workers do ,but you make to much money for puttin your health at risk and your lives on the line eveyday, and so he doesnt have to take his limo,or whatever he drives on rds. Falling apart.” I George Ray voted Republican,but i didnt vote for you “governor bevin”. I guess in the capital “Frankfort” KY., we are just expendable, replaceable ,and not looked at as worthy of what we make on our paychecks. I will finish by saying “WITH PREVAILING WAGE PAY WE AS WORKERS WERE MAKING BETWEEN 30,000 to 60,000 ON AVERAGE YEARLY ,BUT NOW I GUESS WE AS WORKERS WILL STRUGGLE MORE.” #backbone, #construction ,#infrastructure ,#do what we do. ” George Ray “

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