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KY Dems Defeat Latest Round of GOP Efforts to Gut Prevailing Wages and Institute Right-to-Work Laws

Warsaw, KYScore two big wins for Bluegrass State unions.

A committee in the Democratic-majority Kentucky House of Representatives voted down Republican proposals to make Kentucky a right-to-work state and to exempt school construction projects from the state’s prevailing wage laws.

The votes by the Labor and Industry panel effectively killed the GOP’s efforts to pass a right-to-work law and to gut the prevailing wage law this session.

Neither measure would have passed the full house, according to Gerald Watkins, a freshman Democrat from Paducah. “But the battle is not over,” he said. “You can bet the Republicans will come back next year with right-to-work and prevailing wage.”

Watkins added that the Democratic house is all that stands between Kentucky and a right to work law and an eviscerated prevailing wage law.

“The Republicans are confident they can take the house this November,” Watkins said. “We’ve got to have labor’s strong support to help prevent that from happening. If we lose the house, we lose on right to work and the prevailing wage.”

The Democrats hold a slim 54-46 advantage. The GOP has a king size edge in the senate, 23-14, with one independent, who is retiring.

Kentucky unions have their eyes on two big prizes: helping Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes beat Sen. Mitch McConnell, one of the most anti-union lawmakers in Washington, and also helping the Democrats hold the house.

Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, will be in office until December, 2015. He opposes a right to work law and is against weakening the prevailing wage law.

But in Kentucky, a governor’s veto can be overridden with a simple majority vote of both houses.

Meanwhile, anti-union groups like the National Right to Work Committee have targeted Kentucky.

Watkins, who used to carry AFSCME and AFT union cards, doesn’t think the Bluegrass State will be one of the next right to work dominos to topple.

“It’s going to be tough, tough, fight,” he said. “But I think we will hold the house and might even gain two or three seats.”

The fight may have gotten tougher for the Democrats with the unexpected withdrawal of Democrat David Harrington of Murray in the house district five race. Local political observers thought Harrington, the Calloway County attorney, had a good shot at unseating Republican Kenny Imes.

David Ramey, the Calloway County Democratic Party chair, is doubtful Harrington can be replaced on the Democratic ticket.

If he can’t be, Imes has a free shot back to Frankfort.

Meanwhile Watkins is not optimistic about significant Democratic gains in the senate. “It looks to me like all of the incumbents are in good shape.”

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