National Consumers League

National consumer group sounding alarm about anti-union laws being fast-tracked through Kentucky

January 6, 2017

Contact: NCL Communications, Cindy Hoang, cindyh@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC--The National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization, is criticizing proposals being fast-tracked in the Kentucky legislature that undercut the rights of working women and men, with two bills targeting the ability of labor unions to represent the interests of workers gaining Republican support. Since its founding in 1899, NCL nationally and on the state level has supported rights and protections for workers. NCL’s leaders drafted America’s first maximum hours, minimum wage, and child labor abolition laws in the first two decades of the 20th Century. The national organization has staff living and working in the state of Kentucky.

“Might doesn’t make right,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL executive director. “Because Republicans have super majorities in both chambers, they are targeting working people who want nothing more than the ability to bargain on a level playing field for decent wages, benefits, and a safe work environment.”

The bills approved in Kentucky by a House committee would ban mandatory union membership as a condition of employment, and would not allow employers to deduct union dues from workers’ paychecks without written permission, but would still require the union to represent the interests of those employees who refuse to pay dues. The bills would also forbid public employees from going on strike and repeal Kentucky’s prevailing-wage law, which guarantees higher wages for workers on construction projects paid for with public money. Workers represented by unions earn better wages and benefits and have more workplace protections than those who don’t have a union representing them. 

Kentucky’s Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover said the legislature will likely hold a rare Saturday session tomorrow so it can deliver the bills to Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk before taking a three-week recess.

Earlier this week, workers crammed into hallways at the Statehouse, but most were not allowed into the public hearing because the pro-business and anti-union group, Americans for Prosperity, reserved the committee room, effectively freezing out the union representatives. Many new members of the legislature do not have phones set up yet, so there is little opportunity for the public to voice their opinion on the measures, which may move to the governor’s desk for signature during a special legislative session on Saturday.

“This is a sad development for working families in Kentucky,” said Greenberg.

According to reports, Gov. Bevin welcomed the legislature’s anti-union actions. A strong supporter of President-Elect Donald Trump during the campaign, Bevin called for bloodshed in the streets if Mr. Trump were to lose the election in a September 2016 speech, according to the New York Times.

Kentucky is the last state in the South that has not banned mandatory union membership as a condition of employment.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.