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Kentucky - AFSCME Fights Furlong in Court

No Furlough! - Kentucky state employees, members of Council 62, speak out at a press conference in July against impending furloughs. The council is fighting back in court.

No Furlough!
No Furlough! - Kentucky state employees, members of Council 62, speak out at a press conference in July against impending furloughs. The council is fighting back in court. (Photo credit: Council 62)

Council 62, which represents nearly 9,000 Kentucky state workers, is fighting to prevent the state from furloughing employees in a budget-cutting move that the union says will cause “irreparable harm” both to the workers and to the security and well-being of the commonwealth’s citizens.

The council filed a lawsuit in August to stop Gov. Steven Beshear’s (D) plan to furlough 36,000 state employees for six days this fiscal year, starting in September. Although a Franklin County Circuit Court judge refused to prevent the furloughs, he did permit the case to continue on its merits. No decision was reached by WORKS’ deadline.

The state did agree — after the union filed suit — to exempt certain groups, including corrections officers and caregivers in mental health facilities. “This is good news,” says John Gibbons, a corrections officer from Kentucky State Reform-atory and member of Council 62. “We would not have been able to do our jobs safely if the original furlough plan had been implemented.”

The union points out in its lawsuit that social service employees — who were not exempted — provide vital services around the clock, that they’re already understaffed, and that furloughs would needlessly endanger the lives of children needing protection and families in crisis requiring immediate assistance.

“Our fight continues,” says David Warrick, Council 62's executive director and an AFSCME International vice president. “I’m sure, once the judge gets all the information, he’s going to understand that it’s detrimental to the employees and the communities to do this.”

Governor Beshear’s ability to order furloughs was given a legislative push as part of a compromise budget this year. Legislators called furloughs a “last resort tool” to make up $131 million in budget cuts required of the governor. Before any other major cuts were announced, and without documentation, Beshear announced a furlough plan that he claimed would save Kentucky $24 million — a figure Council 62 questions in light of unexamined furlough costs, including additional overtime and missed services.

In the meantime, after working eight years under the previous administration without an executive order for representation, both Kentucky units ratified negotiated agreements with the commonwealth in August, establishing new and stronger rights for employees.

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