Right-to-work bill dies in Kentucky House committee

Published: Mar. 14, 2014 at 4:00 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 28, 2014 at 4:00 AM EDT
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FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - A Kentucky House committee's vote killed right-to-work legislation for the rest of the year, but both sides say the issue will play a key role in November's elections.

The House Labor and Industry Committee on Tuesday failed to pass the legislation, which would've ended the requirement that workers pay union dues as a condition of employment at union shops.

"I think we can all count votes and realize this bill is not going to pass out of this committee," said House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover, who sponsored the legislation.

For now, Kentucky will not join neighboring Indiana and Tennessee as so-called right-to-work states. Twenty-four states currently have similar laws, and Republican leaders said national supporters of the laws are targeting Kentucky next.

About 300 union members packed the committee room and two overflow rooms to watch the debate, which lasted more than an hour.

"It just sends the message that there's a huge opposition to it," said union member Alton Cunningham, who wasn't able to get into the hearing room.

"I think the crowd is great -- it's overflowing, and it should be," Billy Thompson, a member of the steelworkers' union, said before the hearing. "The bill's going to be killed."

During the hearing, Hoover and business groups made their case for the legislation. The state continues to lose jobs to Indiana over right to work, said Dave Adkisson, chief executive of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

"Kentucky has had some (economic) success," he said. "But right-to-work states have had more success."

Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky AFL-CIO, countered by saying the laws aren't job-creating saviors for the states that have them.

"Those right-to-work states that have been that way for six decades, you'd think they'd be perfect, like Shangri-La," Londrigan said. "That ain't the case, and you know it."

Londrigan and other opponents said the legislation is a Republican attempt to bust Democrat-supporting labor unions.

People on both sides have acknowledged the issue will play a central role in November's Kentucky House races. Democrats hold a 54-46 edge, making them able to turn away right-to-work bills.

Indiana Republicans held both chambers and the governor's office in 2012, when they approved similar legislation.

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