Monday, November 09, 2015

Labor bosses’ big loss could bring right to work to Kentucky

By Jason Hart

Labor union bosses are bracing for the worst after Democratic candidate Jack Conway’s loss in the Kentucky governor’s race Tuesday.

Republican Matt Bevin, whose platform included making Kentucky the 26th right-to-work state, thumped Conway — who had led in nearly all polling — by 9 percentage points.

Right-to-work laws give workers the ability to opt out of paying unions, so union bosses spent big to ensure right-to-work opponent Conway succeeded fellow Democrat and right-to-work opponent Gov. Steve Beshear.

Independent political action committee Kentucky Family Values flooded the commonwealth’s airwaves with anti-Bevin attack ads; more than $2.5 million of the PAC’s funding came from unions.

Other than the Democratic Governors Association in Washington, D.C., the top donors to Kentucky Family Values as of the mid-October campaign finance disclosure deadline were out-of-state labor unions.

The National Education Association donated $734,000, and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sent $384,000 from their respective Washington, D.C., offices.

NEA’s Kentucky chapter contributed $250,000 to Kentucky Family Values, and a local Kentucky Education Association affiliate’s Better Schools Kentucky PAC gave $300,000.

International Union of Operating Engineers headquarters in Washington, D.C., sent $150,000 to Kentucky Family Values. United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters sent $100,000 from Annapolis, Maryland.

Kentucky Family Values TV ads bashed Bevin’s business and personal history without mentioning right-to-work, though Louisville NPR affiliate WFPL reported the issue was “at the heart of get-out-the-vote efforts on both sides.”

In addition to funding ads against Bevin, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and other national labor unions breathlessly promoted Conway as the only hope for Kentucky workers.

“For Kentuckians, Jack Conway may be the last obstacle standing between conservatives and their dream of a right-to-work law that would prove devastating to the state’s working people,” IBEW warned its members.

“Our livelihoods are at stake Nov. 3,” the Kentucky State AFL-CIO union coalition said days before the election, calling right-to-work “devastating to union and non-union workers alike.”

“The House stands alone,” read a bleak Kentucky AFL-CIO news headline the morning after Bevin was elected. “Governor-elect Matt Bevin’s extremism is nowhere plainer than in his hatred for unions.”

Republican right-to-work supporters who control the Kentucky Senate have been blocked from making Kentucky a right-to-work state by Beshear and majority Democrats in the Kentucky House.

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