Many states with Republican supermajorities have taken steps to limit collective action by workers by passing anti-worker legislation, such as So-Called “Right to Work” laws and more.
Kentucky is one such state where workers have fallen under attack. Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss the state political environment, workplace safety and more.
So-Called “Right to Work” in Kentucky
Londrigan said the state government in Kentucky has been harsh on working class people. They passed a So-Called “Right to Work” law, promising people an increase in manufacturing jobs and other work. Unfortunately, this is yet to come to fruition.
While So-Called “Right to Work” is bad, union members in Kentucky stuck with their unions for the most part.
Safety in the workplace
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced a whole new list of workplace safety concerns. The labor community has been working to keep as many people working, in as safe of a manner as possible, Londrigan said.
Despite the outbreaks being seen in the meat packing plants and other workplaces throughout the country, he said Kentucky has done well to limit large outbreaks. He attributed this to the union presence in many of the plants.
Despite their current record, he said there is still work to be done to limit the spread. Many workers are still without personal protective equipment, or have had to provide their own.
Kentucky unemployment insurance
Kentucky is facing a crisis within their unemployment insurance system that is being exposed. Their claims system is so outdated that it was built for the 1980’s. When the COVID-19 crisis began, the system broke down and was unusable.
The Kentucky AFL-CIO supported legislation, which would have earmarked funding to upgrade the system. This was ignored by the legislature and previous governor.
Additionally, this anti-worker governor closed state unemployment offices and drastically reduced the staff who would process claims.