By State Rep. Chris Harris
JANUARY 9, 2017
I fought hard during this first week of the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly to protect the interests of Kentucky’s working families against a rising tide of wealthy corporate interests, but in the end, our best efforts were blocked by the new ruling majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives. This week will go down in Kentucky history as one of the most damaging to working people.
Never before in modern times has a legislative session been used to do so much harm in so little time with so few opportunities for public input or debate. No time was wasted by Republican majorities in the House and the Senate to repeal prevailing wage standards in the construction of public projects and to enact what I call “right to work for less” legislation. These measures – affecting thousands of working families in Kentucky, both union and non-union – passed despite our strong objections and repeated attempts to slow the process long enough to let the voices of the people be heard during the legislative process.
Numerous studies and overwhelming data show workers’ wages go down when so-called “right to work” legislation, is passed. There’s a long list of other ills associated with right to work states – less health insurance coverage, poor workplace safety records, and less per capita spending on education, to name a few.
Repealing prevailing wage standards also lowers wages for building and tradesmen, like electricians, pipe fitters, plumbers, and steamfitters employed in public construction projects. These repeals also negatively affect the quality of construction and encourage out-of-state, fly-by-night contractors with employees of questionable training, skills and citizenship.