Anti-union Effort in Kentucky Is Ripped Straight from the Koch Playbook

Mary Bottari January 6, 2017

The Kentucky AFL-CIO is holding a rally at the Capitol at 8:30 a.m. this Saturday and is urging citizens to call their legislators. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

This arti­cle was first post­ed by the Cen­ter for Media and Democracy.

On the first day that the Ken­tucky leg­is­la­ture got under­way with a new­ly elect­ed Repub­li­can House, a Repub­li­can Sen­ate and a Repub­li­can gov­er­nor, the Koch broth­ers’ Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty group blew the whis­tle and leg­is­la­tors jumped to do their bidding.

This week, the Speak­er of the House Jeff Hoover rammed through the leg­is­la­ture three bills to break the back of unions and low­er wages for high­ly-skilled con­struc­tion workers.

It was bare-knuck­led par­ti­san pol­i­tics. We can pret­ty much do what­ev­er we want now!” crowed GOP Ken­tucky Rep. Jim DeCe­sare behind closed doors.

You have only to look at Trump’s nar­row vic­to­ry in Rust Belt states to under­stand why the GOP is des­per­ate to get rid of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty’s boots on the ground.

Trump won by nar­row mar­gins in Wis­con­sin and Michi­gan and took Indi­ana. These are three states where unions — the only orga­nized voice for work­ing fam­i­lies able to stand up against CEOs and cor­po­rate elites — were crushed by right-wing gov­er­nors after Oba­ma won them in 2008.

In Wis­con­sin, union mem­ber­ship is down an esti­mat­ed 133,000 since Gov­er­nor Scott Walk­er destroyed a 50 year tra­di­tion of peace­ful col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing for high­er wages. Trump’s mar­gin of vic­to­ry? Less than 30,000.

Tra­cy Sharpe of the Koch-backed State Pol­i­cy Net­work (SPN) boast­ed of the suc­cess of the union-bust­ing strat­e­gy in a recent Wall Street Jour­al arti­cle enti­tled The spoils of a Repub­li­can State Con­quest.” When you chip away at one of the pow­er sources that also does a lot of get-out-the-vote. I think that helps for sure,” she chirped.

KY GOP close­ly fol­lows Koch/​ALEC gameplan

The three bills being rushed though com­mit­tee hear­ings this week bor­row heav­i­ly from the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil (ALEC) library of bills craft­ed by cor­po­rate lob­by­ists and politi­cians behind closed doors at ALEC meet­ings. ALEC and SPN groups work hand in hand to present the bills as inno­v­a­tive pub­lic pol­i­cy, but scratch the sur­face and a pay to play mod­el appears.

ALEC’s, Michael Bow­man, help­ful­ly explained the key to suc­cess at a recent SPN meet­ing. Leg­is­la­tors are not the trail­blaz­ers of devel­op­ing poli­cies,” Bow­man said accord­ing to a new report today in ProP­ub­li­ca. They’re actu­al­ly the retail consumers.”

Ken­tuck­y’s HB1, dubbed right to work” by sup­port­ers, harms unions by allow­ing work­ers to opt out of pay­ing their fair share for union rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The bill tracks the ALEC mod­el as this side by side shows. SB6 makes it hard­er for unions to col­lect dues. ALEC calls this pay­check pro­tec­tion.” Both mea­sures weak­en and defund unions.

HB3 repeals the pre­vail­ing wage law that rewards high­ly trained and skilled build­ing trade work­ers who repeat­ed­ly train on new mate­ri­als and tech­nol­o­gy with high­er wages. This idea too bor­rows from the ALEC library, which con­tains a num­ber of bills to low­er wages, includ­ing by pre­empt­ing local Fight for 15” and Raise the Wage” ordi­nances at the state lev­el. Charles Koch even argues that elim­i­nat­ing the min­i­mum wage would help the poor.

Accord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Labor, 11 per­cent of Ken­tuck­y’s wage and salary work­ers are union mem­bers, these include dis­tillery work­ers, min­ers, auto work­ers and a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of pub­lic employ­ees and pub­lic school employ­ees. In 2014, the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy exposed ALEC’s efforts to achieve local right to work” ordi­nances in Ken­tucky in the New York Times.

Many Ken­tucky work­ers and their fam­i­lies showed up to tes­ti­fy against the bills being rushed through var­i­ous com­mit­tees this week, but the Koch machine was pre­pared, tak­ing over the hear­ing room Wednes­day before the bill was called up, block­ing the work­ers wait­ing to enter and cheer­ing the Gov­er­nor’s entrance to the com­mit­tee room for the TV cam­eras. Only two peo­ple were able to speak out against the bill: Bill Lon­dri­g­an, Pres­i­dent of the Ken­tucky State AFL-CIO, who explained that no work­er can be forced to join a union and Anna Bau­mann, at the Ken­tucky Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic Pol­i­cy, who explained how the mea­sure harms work­ers, wages and the economy.

Julia Crigler, the State Direc­tor for Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty-Ken­tucky and a leg­is­la­tor with ties to the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil, House Speak­er Pro Tem­pore David Osborne (R‑59), spoke for the bill.

Today in the Sen­ate com­mit­tee hear­ing ALEC mem­ber Rep. Jim DeCe­sare (R‑21), lead the charge in favor of HB 1.

Koch fund­ed group and orga­ni­za­tions pro­vide schol­ar­ly” and grass­roots” cov­er for the cook­ie cut­ter agenda

The effort in Ken­tucky fol­lows a play­book uti­lized by Team Koch in Indi­ana, Wis­con­sin, Michi­gan, and West Vir­ginia. In all of these states, the anti-work­er bills track tem­plate leg­is­la­tion writ­ten and pro­mot­ed by ALEC, which receives a sig­nif­i­cant part of its fund­ing from Koch Indus­tries and oth­er enti­ties con­trolled and fund­ed by the Koch brothers.

In addi­tion, all of these states received sup­port from think tanks” in the Koch-fund­ed State Pol­i­cy Net­work. In Michi­gan, it was the Mack­inac Cen­ter; in Wis­con­sin, the Wis­con­sin Pol­i­cy Research Insti­tute; in West Vir­ginia, the Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Foun­da­tion of West Vir­ginia; and in Ken­tucky, the Blue­grass Insti­tute.

The Koch astro­turf army called Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­i­ty lent a thin veneer of sup­port to the mea­sure in each state, spon­sor­ing tiny ral­lies in Wis­con­sin and Michi­gan that were over­whelmed by mass ral­lies in oppo­si­tion to the bills.

Ral­ly at the Ken­tucky Capi­tol Saturday

Using par­lia­men­tary tricks by label­ing the bills as emer­gency leg­is­la­tion” the GOP is hop­ing to avoid a show­down with the cit­i­zen­ry as there was in Wis­con­sin where protest ral­lies reg­u­lar­ly topped 100,000 as Demo­c­ra­t­ic leg­is­la­tors fled the state and stu­dents and union sup­port­ers occu­pied the Capitol.

The bills were mov­ing so fast that most of the state’s vot­ers may only get word after the gov­er­nor signs the mea­sures into law.

The Ken­tucky AFL-CIO is hold­ing a ral­ly at the Capi­tol at 8:30 a.m. this Sat­ur­day and is urg­ing cit­i­zens to call their legislators.

A tweet from Speak­er Hoover yes­ter­day sug­gests that a final vote on the bills will come soon, When you are wrestling for pos­ses­sion of a sword, the man with the han­dle always wins.”

Mis­souri, New Hamp­shire and West Vir­ginia fac­ing union bust­ing battles

F. Vin­cent Ver­nuc­cio who works at the Koch-fund­ed Mack­inac Cen­ter and trav­els the coun­try tes­ti­fy­ing as an expert” on the bills said that Mis­souri and New Hamp­shire could fol­low Ken­tucky this year. Both Mis­souri and New Hamp­shire are tri­fec­ta Repub­li­can states. In West Vir­ginia, the elec­tion of Gov­er­nor Jim Jus­tice, a Demo­c­rat who was pre­vi­ous­ly a Repub­li­can, may give the GOP a sec­ond chance at pass­ing the law, which was vetoed by the Demo­c­ra­t­ic gov­er­nor last year.

Mary Bot­tari is the deputy direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy (CMD).
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