Warren County goes 'right to work'; Louisville passes minimum wage increase

12/19/2014 06:38 PM

Local governments in Kentucky took major steps by enacting legislation at the county and metro level which has divided state lawmakers for years.

In Bowling Green Friday the Warren County Fiscal Court became the first county in the nation to enact a right to work law with a 6-1 vote, and on Thursday night Louisville Metro government became the first city in the south to increase the minimum wage.

Both actions from local government officials will likely land the governments in court defending their actions, Attorney General Jack Conway

The Warren County Fiscal Court took the first step towards “right to work” which would effectively end “closed shops” in Kentucky and allowing workers the right to not be part of the union.

With a majority vote the fiscal court enacted ordnance which allows employees working for private corporations in Warren County to not be fired for refusing to pay union dues. Under the ordinance, current union contracts in Warren County are unaffected until contract renewal, and public employees are not covered.

Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said he hopes to provide a path for Kentucky government officials to follow the lead of Warren County officials.

“I believe this will pay great dividends to the citizen-worker in Warren County and I hope that it will have great implications across the commonwealth,” Buchanon told Pure Politics following the meeting.

The controversial issue will likely end in a court battle, but Buchanon said he thinks the local government does have the authority to enact the ordinance.

“We are a political subdivision of the state, but we have direct authority to make those choices for our workers and for economic development purposes or to regulate commerce for the benefit or protection of our citizens,” Buchanon said.

Bowling Green is the county seat of Warren County and that is where the hometown of Corvette which is a closed shop.

Eldon Renaud, the president of Bowling Green’s United Auto Workers Local 2164, called the ordinance a major set-back for workers and an affront to unions.

“Business people think that’s a way to keep unions out. That’s what this is about — it’s an anti-union movement nothing more,” Renaud said.

“This is not going to happen anyway this has to be done by the legislature. …They’re all congratulating themselves, but maybe they’re happy — maybe they had eggnog for Christmas, but it’s not going anywhere.”

In Louisville Metro Council voted Thursday night to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour by the year 2017.

The vote to increase the minimum wage fell down party lines with Democrats supporting the measure and Republicans voting against it.

The passage of the increase makes Louisville the first city in the southern United States to increase the minimum wage, something state and federal Democratic lawmakers have failed at enacting in their attempts.

Current Kentucky state law includes language mandating Kentucky increase the minimum wage as the federal minimum wage is increased by Congress.


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