By Sahid Fawaz
Unions lost thousands of members in 2017 after Kentucky's "right to work" law took effect.
"Kentucky saw a decline in union workers in 2017 as the state’s right-to-work law took effect, according to new federal data.
The state had 16,000 fewer workers who were members of unions in 2017 compared to a year earlier, while the share of workers who belong to unions fell to 9.6 percent, from 11.1 percent in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The share of union workers in Kentucky fell last year even while holding steady for the U.S. as a whole at 10.7 percent.
The right-to-work law, fast-tracked by the Republican-controlled legislature last January, prevents employers at organized workplaces from deducting union dues from workers’ paychecks without the employee’s consent.
But the law is being phased in over several years, so it’s unclear whether the state’s decline in union members is due to right-to-work or other factors.
'There have been a number of union shops that have moved overseas or simply closed in the past year,' said Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky AFL-CIO, an umbrella group for unions. He cited General Electric’s former lighting plant in Lexington, among other examples.
While unions are worried about the long-term effect of the law, not many workers have chosen to stop paying dues while still enjoying the protections afforded by labor contracts, Londrigan said.
'It may have some impact down the road, but we are not seeing a huge impact at this point from people dropping out of unions,' Londrigan said."
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