Law and Politics

Kentucky Elects Anti-Labor Governor

November 5, 2015
By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel

(Photo: Meg Vogel)

Tea Party Republican Matt Bevin was elected governor of Kentucky Nov. 3, increasing the odds that the state will try to pass a “right to work for less” law banning the union shop. The Louisville businessman upset Attorney General Jack Conway, winning 53% of the vote in the race to succeed Democrat Steve Beshear. 


Bevin campaigned on the slogan “pro-life, pro-family, pro-2nd Amendment,” and opposed raising the minimum wage and expanding Medicaid. His platform called for eliminating pensions for future state workers and changing “labor laws that currently result in self-inflicted economic wounds.

This begins with passing comprehensive Right to Work legislation and eliminating prevailing wage requirements for state contracts.” While Democrats held the governorship and a majority in the state House, union foes in Kentucky followed the legally questionable strategy of getting individual counties to pass lawsthat let workers refuse to pay any fees to unions that are legally required to represent them. (A 1965 state Supreme Court decision held that such laws can only be enacted at the state level.) Democrats will still have a 54–46 majority in the House, but Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel believes that enough of them might defect to approve such a right-to-freeload law. “I think it stands a lot better chance,” he told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “The House members that have been reluctant to pass right-to-work might well take instruction next year.” Read more

November 4, 2015

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