- Joe Graviss
Legislative Update - Labor Day
When the United States first celebrated Labor Day 125 years ago, life on the job was anything but easy for many. The hours were often long; safety was an afterthought, if it was thought about at all; and children as young as seven were forced to work, with some given the most dangerous tasks because of their small size. Safety-net programs like workers comp and unemployment insurance were still decades away.
We’ve come a long way from a historical perspective, but as this important holiday arrives on Monday, we must not forget that there is still much to do for those who quite literally have built our country into what it is today. They are our economy’s bedrock foundation.
Kentucky has certainly been blessed by what they have accomplished. Few states, for example, have a higher percentage of employees in manufacturing, which is a key reason why we are leaders in such areas as the auto and aerospace industries and export growth.
In other good news, our statewide unemployment rate has been at or near historical lows, and we’ve consistently been among the top one or two states each year when measuring the number of large-scale economic projects announced on a per-person basis. This doesn’t happen overnight.
As we recognize the hard work that made these positive gains possible, we must also re-commit ourselves to addressing the challenges facing us.
Consider that some of our counties have unemployment rates three times higher than others, while few if any states have a higher percentage of hourly workers making the minimum wage, a rate that hasn’t changed in Kentucky for a decade. Over the last year, meanwhile, the number of net new jobs in the commonwealth grew by just 1.5 percent.
In an effort to make Kentucky’s workplaces even better, many of my House colleagues and I are putting our support behind more than a dozen proposed bills that would benefit the commonwealth in many ways.
That includes raising the minimum wage above the federal rate, something 29 other states have already done, and repealing punitive changes adopted last year that make it harder for those partially but permanently injured on the job to get medical benefits beyond 15 years. That same law also significantly reduced the number of physicians certified by the state to diagnose black lung in coal miners, despite an increase in this deadly and debilitating disease.
Another proposal to be considered would ensure that jobs created by state tax incentives provide reasonable wages and benefits, while two other bills would improve policies governing those on maternity leave or who are crime victims and need time off as their case is being prosecuted.
I believe if the workers of 125 years ago could see us today, they would be proud of what we have accomplished and the goals we are setting to do even more. That’s what makes Labor Day so special, because it looks back with respect and looks forward with expectation of something even better.
With that in mind, I hope you and your family have a great holiday weekend. I appreciate the hard work you have done to make Kentucky what it is today.
As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other affecting Kentucky. My email is email@example.com, and the toll-free message line for legislators is 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
Thanks for all you do and holler anytime.