With Republicans in full control of legislature, head of state labor group airs concerns with right-to-work, prevailing wage repeal

12/28/2016 02:25 PM

Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan says he expects workers’ wages to take a hit if a right-to-work law is passed in next year’s legislative session, a near certainty with Republicans in firm control of both the House and Senate.

Republicans have pushed to make Kentucky the 27th right-to-work state in the U.S. in recent years, an initiative that has been blocked in the Democrat-led House of Representatives. The 17-seat swing for the GOP on Election Day propelled them to a supermajority in the lower chamber, smoothing the issue’s path in 2017’s 30-day session.

In a recent interview with Pure Politics, Londrigan said passing such a law, which would end compulsory union membership and requirements for non-union employees to pay dues to the groups at union shops, would stifle workers’ wages across the board.

Right-to-work laws are an effort to “basically undermine unions and weaken our ability to provide the services that we’re at law required to provide,” he said.

“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,” Londrigan said (7:40 in the interview). “Health care, retirement benefits, safety, things of this nature, plus we have grievance procedures.”

A statewide right-to-work law would be the second blow to labor groups recently after the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in November that local governments in Kentucky can enact right-to-work ordinances.

Lawmakers are also poised to target prevailing wage requirements on public works projects in the upcoming session.

Londrigan says the benefits of repealing the prevailing wage are overstated because labor costs account for about 20 percent of projects’ budgets.

“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,” Londrigan said (12:30 in the interview). “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.”

Watch the full interview with Londrigan here:

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