Right-to-work cleared for floor vote in Senate but dead-on-arrival in House

01/08/2015 11:19 AM

FRANKFORT — The Senate’s economic development committee set up a floor vote on a bill that would prevent unions from collect fees from workers regardless of membership, approving the measure along a party-line vote Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1, right-to-work legislation that cleared the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee on a 7-3 vote, will make the state more attractive to businesses seeking to relocate to or remain in Kentucky, said Senate President Robert Stivers, the bill’s sponsor. SB 1 would cover unionized employers in the private and public sectors, except for public safety agencies.

“In essence, I’ve told you I believe it will create a situation that we will be more competitive and become a right-to-work state,” said Stivers, R-Manchester.

The bill is backed by business groups such as the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Kentucky Association for Economic Development, both of which testified in favor of the bill. Dave Adkisson, the chamber’s president, said businesses see right-to-work legislation as “a no-brainer” and “a basic indicator of how business-friendly a state is.”

Adkisson said the push isn’t an attempt to hamper labor unions, but Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, said the bill would do just that.

“It certainly isn’t a pro-union proposition,” he said. “What it does is it makes unions do something no other organization has to do, which is provide services and benefits and be denied the opportunity to even collect a fee.”

What’s more, Londrigan said Site Selection magazine, a publication of the Industrial Asset Management Council, ranked right-to-work the 20th factor considered when economic development or site selection officials rate a prospective location in 2012. “It’s never been in the top 10,” he said.

Despite Senate Republican leaders placing right-to-work among the chamber’s legislative priorities, SB 1’s fate in the House has been sealed.

When asked about the legislation’s chances in the House Wednesday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the odds are the same as the previous session’s right-to-work proposal, House Bill 496, which never received a committee vote.

“Slim and none,” said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, “and … slim left town.”

Stivers said he understands the speaker’s views on right-to-work legislation, but “it’s not a very good position because I think it is something that gives us an opportunity to create quality jobs and help Kentucky families.”

When asked about potential middle ground with the Democrat-led House, Stivers said he’s unsure.

“I don’t think the speaker’s been willing to much have a conversation on it, so until there is a possible discussion I just have to wait and see,” he said.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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