This is what democracy looks like when the Republicans hold the majorities in the House and Senate and the governor’s office. This is Republican “democracy.”
On Thursday, the Republican majorities in both chambers pulled out a surprise pension bill and attached it to a previously filed sewer bill. At 2 p.m., the bill was presented at a State Government Committee meeting, voted on with little discussion after about 45 minutes, and sent to the House floor for immediate passage. No one was able to read the 291-page document or learn its contents, though it was one of the most complex and contentious bill this session. The House debated for 4 ½ hours before it passed the pension bill, 49-46.
The sewer/pension bill was then sent to the Senate and passed, 22-15. The whole process, from inception to final passage from both chambers, was about 9 hours. Gov. Matt Bevin couldn’t be happier, as he praised the 71 legislators who supported the bill.
The members of Kentucky’s Building Trades experienced this same arrogance when the Republicans rammed through “right-to-work” and “prevailing wage” repeal within the first 5 days of the 2017 session. We had a total of 10 minutes of testimony in committee, and the Republican Speaker of the House limited floor debate on our two most important issues to 30 minutes each. In 2017, the normal 3-day rule for bills was removed in order to quickly shove these anti-labor bills down our throats with only a few hours’ notice to act.
Our members who traveled to Frankfort to protest these bills remember when they were locked out of the room to prevent their voices from being heard. The Republican majorities admitted they coordinated with the Koch Brothers and Americans For Prosperity to hold an 8 a.m. meeting to fill the room before the 9 a.m. committee meeting in order to keep us out.
For 95 years, Kentucky voters had not allowed the Republicans to control the House, Senate and governor’s office all at once, and now we know why. Kentucky’s teachers, state employees, police and first responders are now as outraged as our union members are about the Republican drive to force us back to the darkest days labor had endured. These same tactics from over a hundred years ago forced Kentuckians to join together and form unions to speak as one voice to protect our families and livelihoods.
The 30-day session of 2017 saw right-to-work, prevailing wage repeal and paycheck deception–a scheme to make it harder for unions to collect dues through payroll deduction–become law.
The 60-day session of 2018 saw attacks on workers compensation, unemployment insurance, overtime, the minimum wage, wage and hour rules, OSHA, skilled trades licensing, wage bond protections, asbestos liability limits, project labor agreements and transparency in procurements. In other words, they’re just getting warmed up.
We will have the opportunity to right a wrong, and it begins with the May 22 primary elections. The general election on November 6 is our chance to stop the misery and take Kentucky back to the time of some shared prosperity. Please Remember-In-November and volunteer to help elect labor-friendly candidates.
The teachers and state employees will be back in Frankfort on Monday at 9 a.m. We support their fight which is our fight, and together we can start toward electing legislators who reflect our values, thereby restoring some democracy in Frankfort.
by Bill Finn
State Director, Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council
Cross-posted with permission from the Kentucky AFL-CIO site