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Kentucky: State Workers Gain Rights Through AFSCME

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) signs two negotiated union agreements covering approximately 9,000 corrections and social service workers.

Kentucky Contract Signing
Kentucky Contract Signing
(Photo Credit: Kentucky Office of Creative Services)

Louisville, Kentucky

Victory For State Workers 
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) signs two negotiated union agreements covering approximately 9,000 corrections and social service workers.

Approximately 9,000 Kentucky corrections and social service employees represented by Council 62 have finally won their first union agreement with the state, under the Beshear administration.

"This is a tremendous step in building a strong union," says David Warrick, executive director of Council 62 and an AFSCME International vice president. "As state employees, we now have written rules and rights that cannot be changed unilaterally on any given day at the whim of management. This agreement lays a solid foundation for expanding those rights for years to come."

The agreement, signed in November by Gov. Steve Beshear (D), covers approximately 5,000 corrections employees who work in prisons and related facilities, including probation and parole and juvenile justice employees, and approximately 4,000 social service employees, including family case workers, managers and social workers.

The document is significant because Kentucky state workers do not have collective bargaining rights, which allow workers to negotiate wages. Now, at least, those workers covered by the agreement will be represented by a union steward in grievance procedures, and in meetings with management that could lead to disciplinary actions.

"We couldn't have done it for them before this agreement was signed," says Warrick.

The agreement also establishes a new labor-management process that allows workers to bring up issues and concerns outside the grievance procedures.

The historic document comes a little over two years after the governor signed an executive order restoring the right of state workers to union representation. Former Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) revoked that right in his first administrative act upon taking office in 2003.

"We are pleased to have a governor who supports not only state employees, but the concept of collective bargaining and letting them have a voice on the job," says Warrick.

A third group of state employees - health care workers represented by both AFSCME Council 62 and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) - still await their own union agreement with the state.

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