Protestors gather as Republicans unveil Right to Work legislation

Published: Feb. 28, 2014 at 6:07 AM EST|Updated: Apr. 14, 2014 at 5:07 AM EDT
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House Majority Leader Rep. Jeff Hoover
House Majority Leader Rep. Jeff Hoover
AFSCME member Sandy Mayes
AFSCME member Sandy Mayes
House Speaker Greg Stumbo
House Speaker Greg Stumbo
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) – Protesters gathered in Frankfort on Thursday as Kentucky Republicans introduced right to work legislation, even though the legislation has dim chances of success this year.

National supporters of the proposal, which would end the requirement that workers pay union dues as a condition of employment, have targeted Kentucky as the next state to "flip," Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer said.

The legislation addresses the same issue that drew huge thousands of protesters to Indiana's statehouse -- and led some Democrats to walk out -- before the bill passed and was signed into law in 2012.

"Kentucky has to make itself as attractive to job creators as possible," said House Majority Leader Rep. Jeff Hoover. "It's not about busting unions at all, it's about giving employees and opportunity to have a choice."

House Republicans introduced the legislation, supported by business groups like the state Chamber of Commerce. There are no plans for a similar measure in the Senate, Thayer said.

Indiana and Tennessee are among the 24 other states that already allow people to work at union shops without paying dues.

About 15 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees protested the announcement Thursday in the Capitol Annex.

"What they want to do is take rights away to bargain for the raises and the contracts that we get that help us out," AFSCME member Sandy Mayes said.

The move has no immediate impact because Democrats stand in the way of Republicans' efforts on the measure.

Unlike Indiana, Kentucky has a Democratic governor. Democrats also control Kentucky's House, where leaders say the legislation doesn't stand a chance.

"It's really a right to work for less law," House Speaker Greg Stumbo said. "I think Kentucky workers deserve better than that."

Opponents said the legislation will cripple unions and lead to lower wages for workers. They dispute Republicans' claims that business leaders are more likely to create jobs in right-to-work states.

Legislative leaders from both parties said November's elections are critical. Republicans are aiming to take control of the House, where Democrats currently have a 54-46 advantage.

Senate Republicans say the legislation will be "near the top" of the priority list if their party wins control of the House.

"With a Republican Senate, if we can flip the house to republican and then elect a Republican governor (in 2015), we can make this state better in 30 days," Thayer said.

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