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WV, MO, KY Prepare for 2016 “Right-to-Work” Fights

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In at least three states, “Right-to-Work” has reared its ugly head following the fall elections, with supporters waiting for the right time to strike (not that kind of strike) and opponents locked in what the American Prospect refers to as a “never-ending game of “Right-to-Work” whack-a-mole.”

Republicans in West Virginia, Missouri, and Kentucky are bringing “Right-to-Work” to the table ahead of 2016 legislative sessions.  Given the fact that there are currently 25 “Right-to-Work” states, the next state to enact the law will make the United States a majority “Right-to-Work” country.

In West Virginia, legislators heard testimony on the subject during a Joint Committee on the Judiciary meeting in November.  Only testimony can be heard right now because lawmakers are not in session, but the committee meeting is a warning that “Right-to-Work” will likely be on the legislative agenda in January.  Senate President Bill Cole has publicly called for “Right-to-Work” to be on next year’s legislative agenda. Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto threat may be the only thing standing between the law and the land.

The issue will be a major factor in the 2016 gubernatorial race, in which Cole is a declared candidate.  With Governor Tomblin term-limited, the race is wide open. Cole has the support of the almighty Koch brothers, who some say “hand picked” the candidate. Bill Cole hopes to ride the anti-union train all the way to the governor’s mansion.  

The “Right-to-Work” alarm has also sounded in Missouri, too, where a September legislative attempt died only due to veto.  Like Tomblin, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is bound by term limits, leaving an open field of contenders on both sides.  

All seven Republican contenders, led by frontrunner Lt. Gov Peter Kinder, have come out in favor of “Right-to-Work.”  The Democrats seeking the nomination all oppose the legislation.  The current Democratic frontrunner, Attorney General Chris Koster, has been particularly supportive of labor and vowed to crush “Right-to-Work” if elected governor.   

The scenario is flipped in Kentucky, where Democrats control the House and Senate but a new conservative governor, Matt Bevin, is the one aiming to stifle his state’s workers’ rights. There, legal battles are ongoing over whether local municipalities can pass their own “Right-to-Work” laws, regardless of the state’s stance.  Bevin is on the record as saying he would prefer to see “Right-to-Work” come to Kentucky on the state level.   

The 2016 election could become an all-out referendum on “Right-to-Work” in the bluegrass state. The wheels are already in motion as Republicans have convinced Democratic State Rep. Denver Butler to seek re-election as a Republican, a move that could help the GOP take control of the legislature for the first time in 90 years.  


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