With a Republican majority in both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly for the first time in nearly a century, legislative changes to Kentucky’s labor laws have already begun. In the first few days of the 2017 General Assembly, the legislature enacted new laws implementing “right-to-work” and repealing prevailing wage.
House Bill 1 and Sentate Bill 6 were both signed by Governor Bevin on January 9, 2017. Combined, these two bills constitute Kentucky’s version of the Right-to-work act.
Right-to-work allows employees who belong to a unionized workforce to choose whether they want to pay union dues or belong to the union. Under the previous law, employees in a union shop were compelled to do both, whether they wanted to or not. Supporters of the new law say it furthers employee free choice and reduces the cost of doing business. Opponents contend it will unfairly allow employees who are not union members and who do not pay dues to get a “free ride” because they will still benefit from the collective bargaining agreement governing their workplace.
The new statute, KRS 336(2) provides that an employee shall not be enrolled as a union member unless the employee has affirmatively requested membership in writing. Likewise, union dues may not be deducted from paychecks except upon annual written or electronic authorization of the employee. There is no provision for whether it is the employer’s obligation or union’s obligation to facilitate the process.
The law also has stringent requirements for union’s expenditures on political activities and such money must come from a separate, segregated fund and not use any portion of union dues paid by members.
KRs 336(7) specifically states that being a union member may not be a condition of obtaining or maintaining employment.
The law is not retroactive so any CBA that mandates union membership and automatic deductions is still in place. However, for any agreement that is entered into, opted in, renewed or extended on or after January 9, 2017, the new rules will apply. Violations of the new law will cause a civil penalty of $100 to $1,000 for each offense. There can also be criminal penalties filed with local prosecutors by the secretary of the Labor Cabinet for violations-.
The provisions of the law stating that companies may not discriminate in hiring or tenure of employment or any condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization is still in place. Likewise, companies may not discriminate because a person has signed or filed any affidavit, petition, complaint or given any information or testimony. KRS 67A.6904
House Bill 3 repealed a long-standing law which required that union-scale “prevailing wage” rates be paid to construction workers on state and local government construction projects, including schools and university buildings. Supporters believe the new law will reduce the costs of government construction projects, while opponents say it will significantly cut the wages paid to construction workers.
As with any new law, the details are yet to be decided until the Labor Cabinet drafts and passes accompanying regulations.
Kentucky is now the 24th state to enact Right-to-work and notably, Ohio has not enacted it although Tennessee and Indiana both have.« Back to news