by Mish

Organized labor suffered its first major legislative setback due to the 2016 elections on Saturday, when Kentucky Republicans gave final approval to right-to-work legislation and repealed the state’s prevailing wage law. Both bills are expected to be signed into law by the governor, and will take effect immediately.

Labor leaders were equally troubled by the legislature’s move to gut the state’s prevailing wage law. Such laws require that employers pay certain minimum wages on work funded by public money. Backers of the laws say they help make sure companies accepting taxpayer dollars don’t drive down wages and working conditions. Opponents argue they inflate the cost of public works projects.

The repeal means prevailing wages will no longer apply to construction workers building schools and government buildings.

Charlie Essex, the financial secretary for Local 369 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Louisville, called the measure “an attack on union people.” He estimated that the prevailing wage law applied to more than 30 percent of union construction work in Kentucky.

Backed by business lobbies, Republican lawmakers around the country have been aggressive in pushing right-to-work bills and prevailing wage repeals in recent years. When Democrats lose control of a statehouse chamber or the governor’s mansion, they are often powerless to stop them.

Long confined to the South and West, right-to-work proponents have recently made inroads elsewhere in the country, including even the industrial Midwest. Since 2012, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia have all gone right-to-work. Kentucky will be the 27th such state, making it more the norm than the exception around the country.

Crux of the Matter

Congratulations to Kentucky. The state will now be able to avoid overpaying for schools and paving roads.

Prevailing wage laws guarantee overpaying.

Unions’ Misguided Sense of “Fair”

Under U.S. labor law, a union must represent all employees in a unionized workplace, even those who may not want representation.

Unions argue it’s only fair that all workers share the costs of bargaining and maintaining the union contract.

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