Paducah’s State Representative Gerald Watkins says although Republicans succeeded in passing Right-to-Work legislation in the Senate yesterday, it won’t gain much traction in the House.
The legislation allows employees to work for union-negotiated businesses without having to join or pay union dues. 24 states, including Tennessee, have Right-to-Work laws.
Watkins, a democrat, says the bill didn’t come up for discussion today, but predicts that it won’t get very far in the Democratically-controlled House.
“I don’t think it’s a silver-bullet for economic revival in Kentucky, there are other things to look at and I think we’re doing very well as far as attracting new businesses and promoting businesses start up in Kentucky," said Watkins. "So, Right to Work is not going to pass the House. What the Senate did is just symbolic and it will be rather quickly dispensed with as far as committees. Maybe it might come up for a vote but it won’t pass labor and industry.”
Watkins says it’s a controversial issue that just isn’t popular in Kentucky, citing former Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher’s failed attempt to pass such legislation in 2006.
"Four different Republicans voted against it in the House [in 2006], so he wasn't successful after all that effort and occupying the governor's office and all the power it afforded him," said Watkins. "Now here we are again. But now the Democrats control the House and we don't see that as a winning issue."
He says lawmakers should focus more on revising the state tax code to incite more new businesses.
Recently, three counties, Warren, Simpson and Fulton, issued their own local Right-to-Work ordinances. Attorney General Jack Conway has calls the local ordinances “unconstitutional”. Watkins agrees saying it's an effort for Right to Work supporters to gain momentum on public opinion, but it's a trend that won't catch on in other counties.
The General Assembly is adjourned until February 3rd.