Republicans, now wielding total control of the Kentucky state legislature for the first time in nearly a century, exerted their power this weekend to pass a slew of measures that weaken workers’ and women’s rights.
The passage of the seven bills by the General Assembly during a special session on Saturday, as the Daily Independent reports, is unusual, as, normally, “the legislature passes little or no legislation during the first four days of the biannual 30-day ‘short session’ using the initial week for organization.”
The bills attacking women’s reproductive rights are SB5, which bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, or for fetal anomalies; and HB2, which requires doctors to show women seeking an abortion an ultrasound image of their fetus before the procedure takes place.
— ACLU of Kentucky (@ACLUofKY) January 7, 2017
Affecting workers, the lawmakers passed HB1, a so-called right-to-work bill. As Reuters explains, it gives “workers the right to work in union-represented shops and receive union-negotiated benefits without paying dues to the representing body.” The General Assembly also passed passed HB3, which gets rid of the law that meant workers on public construction projects were required to earn the prevailing wage, as well as SB6, which requires workers to make a written request before union dues can be deducted.
The lawmakers also passed also SB3, which requires public disclosure of state lawmakers’ pension benefits, and SB12, which replaces the board of trustees at the University of Louisville.
The legislative attack on workers and women was expected, as state Republicans are now “unfettered by Democrats,” prompting Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins to warn earlier this month, “I would say if you’re a vulnerable person, if you’re a woman, if you’re a working man or woman, it doesn’t look very good for you this session.”
According to various news outlets, hundreds of protesters gathered at the Capitol building on Saturday to decry the measures. WLKY writes that “union workers packed the state Capitol building.” The local news also reports Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky AFL-CIO, as saying during the protest, “We need you to talk to your elected representatives, at your place of work, at home, in your communities, at the church, in the grocery stores and send them a message that we will send them packing next election cycle.”
Gov. Matt Bevin, who called the bills “generationally changing,” said they would all go into effect Monday.
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Democracy Now! on Monday spoke with Richard Becker, a union organizer with Service Employees International Union, and Lisa Abbott, a community organizer with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, about the bills. Watch the segment below: