Unions rally in Frankfort against anti-labor bills

UPDATE FROM STOP RIGHT-TO-WORK IN KENTUCKY: “HAPPENING NOW: The Economic Development committee locked the doors of their RTW hearing and will not allow any Kentucky workers or labor representatives in to watch or testify during the hearings. They did, however, allow anti-worker and anti-union supporters inside. They have state police preventing us from entering. They do not want to hear the concerns of working families, they want to SILENCE US! #KYGA17#StopRTW ."

UPDATE from DeLane Adams: "RTW just passed out of committee and is now headed to the floor. They are discussing PW now."

By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Union members packed the capitol annex today for hearings on a trio of anti-union bills backed by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and the GOP super-majority Kentucky legislature.

Republican lawmakers are poised to pass not only a “right to work” bill, but also measures to repeal the prevailing wage and to make it harder for unions to collect dues through paycheck deduction, the so-called “paycheck protection.” 

“Politicians didn’t create the labor movement and politicians aren’t going to destroy the labor movement,” said DeLane Adams, Atlanta-based AFL-CIO southeast region communications director. 

It’s possible all three bills will be passed and signed by Bevin as early as early as Saturday, according to Bill Finn, state director of the Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council.

The House RTW bill is HB 1; the House PW repeal bill is HB3. Senate Bill 6 is the “paycheck protection” measure. 

HB 1 and 3 include emergency clauses, “which means they will be enacted into law after they are signed by the governor,” said Daniel Lowry, Kentucky Democratic Party communications director.  

After all three bills were referred to committees Tuesday, Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan sent out a call to union members to come to Frankfort, the state capital, “so that we can have a significant showing of support for our position and let the legislators know that we will hold them accountable for these votes.”  

RTW and PW repeal top Bevin’s anti-labor agenda. 

President-elect Donald Trump’s landslide win in Kentucky cleared the way for the Republican assault on Bluegrass State unions. Also on Nov. 8, the GOP maintained its 27-11 majority in the state Senate. The House—heretofore organized labor’s firewall--flipped from 53-47 Democratic to 64-36 Republican.

The Kentucky House was the only Democratic-majority legislative chamber in the South. 

Unions are still putting out the word that “right to work” really means “the right to work for less,” that prevailing wage repeal also drives down wages, that strong unions help boost the economy and that “paycheck protection” really means paycheck deception. 

Almost all of the poorest states are RTW states, union leaders point out. 

“What folks need to understand, in a right-to-work state you’ve got no opportunity to negotiate a contract with an employer that requires the payment of the fees for the services that are provided, and those services are critical, and those services include collective bargaining agreements that protect workers, that take away the element of at-will employment, that also provide benefits,” Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan said in a videotaped interview with CN/2, a widely viewed cable TV news, commentary  and sports channel. He also cited “health care, retirement benefits, safety, things of this nature, plus we have grievance procedures.”

Londrigan also challenged PW foes.

“The proponents are out here saying, ‘Well we can save ridiculous amounts of money on the projects because we lower these wages,’ but when you look at the total cost of the project, those wages are only a small portion of the project,” he said. “You have to almost wipe out wages completely in order to make up for the great percentages of savings they’re supposed to derive from not having prevailing wage.”  

He doubts SB 6 is constitutional. “It basically prohibits us from negotiating with an employer to deduct any kind of dues or fees from a paycheck,” Londrigan said, adding that "paycheck protection" really means "paycheck deception."