Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

February 22, 2013

Right to work, prevailing wage debate for nought

By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI

FRANKFORT —  It was perhaps a perfect illustration of the 2013 General Assembly deliberations so far.

The House Committee on Labor and Industry Thursday heard discussion on bills sponsored by Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, which would make Kentucky a right-to-work state and repeal the prevailing wage law for public projects.

The room was filled with union members — so filled that two overflow rooms were set up where those who couldn’t get into the meeting room could watch and listen on closed-circuit television.

But at DeCesare’s request, there was no vote on either of the bills. So in the end, all the talk was for nothing.

Committee Chairman Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, said DeCesare “asked that the bills be called for discussion only and that we not take a vote on them.”

The reason was simple.

“I didn’t have the votes,” DeCesare said afterward. He said he might not have been able to secure more than three votes on the committee.

While right to work is a popular issue among Republicans, Democrats control the House and the bills had little chance of passage there.

“I’m just happy we had a hearing,” DeCesare said.

No one would say so, but there might have been another reason —forcing Republicans to vote in line with what is generally viewed as GOP orthodoxy on both issues might be used against them when they come up for re-election in 2014, a year in which Republicans hope to take the House majority from Democrats.

Brendan Cole, of the Kentucky Work to Life Committee, told the committee some employees are “coerced” into paying union dues at work places represented by unions. Federal law does not require membership, but it does allow unions to collect dues from all employees on the theory that even non-union employees benefit from agreements with management negotiated by unions.

But supporters of right to work claim some companies refuse to locate in states without such laws and union dues are often used to promote political agendas with which some members disagree.

Bill Londrigan of the state AFL-CIO countered that unions may spend members’ dues only on benefit negotiations and worker grievance policies.

Quoting Martin Luther King, Londrigan said right to work laws “provide no right and no work” and are designed to destroy unions.

For the full story, see the print or e-edition of Saturday's Glasgow Daily Times.