Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear is touring unions in the west Kentucky region promoting what he calls his “Kitchen Table Agenda.” Beshear stopped at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local Union 184 in Paducah on Tuesday afternoon. He was at IUOE Local 181 in Henderson in the morning.
He and running mate Jaqueline Coleman toured the facility’s classrooms and labs while apprentices practiced welding.
Business manager Kyle Henderson said the union has 750 members in the 14 county region and 80 apprentices. He said the facility is expanding soon to include a model house that will be used for hands-on learning experiences. Henderson described a growing need for skilled workers to meet the demands of the petrochemical industry and other industries that require welding, plumbing and HVAC. He noted that companies like Google need skilled HVAC workers to keep their data centers under control.
Beshear said his jobs plan aims to bring six-figure “jobs of the future” to the region in fields such as agritech, advanced manufacturing, robotics and artificial intelligence. He pointed a need for the state government to partner with training programs such as the welding class underway at the local union. “People come in here and leave with certifications to work not only in the most important projects in this country, but also in this state.”
Beshear said he wants to see more young people either going to college or getting into a skilled trade. “We need to make sure everybody is on one of those two tracks. And getting them in high school is too late. We need to get down into middle schools to make sure those students are seeing those opportunities.”
“If you’re going to work hard, you ought to be able to work one good job and be able to raise your family working just that one job,” he said, when asked what his message was to the apprentices. “We shouldn’t pass bills where our hard-working families lose money every year. We should be looking at how they can make more money. We’ve got what’s supposed to be a booming economy, but it’s not helping western Kentucky and it’s not helping working families because their wages are flat.”
Ashley Spalding of the left-learning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy wrote in July that the median wage in Kentucky has not changed much in nearly 20 years.
Criticizing his opponent, Beshear said Gov. Matt Bevin prioritizes out-of-state CEOs over workers and their families. “He’s passed right-to-work, which is going to eat into their wages. He’s repealed the prevailing wage, which means we’ve lost the best on our most important projects. Those people who build the roof on our schools - I want that to be the best roof that could possibly be there, created by the best in the industry.”
Bevin officials were recently in the region sharing economic development progress. Cabinet for Economic Development Interim Secretary Vivek Sarin was in Murray earlier this month touting new investments and new jobs under the Bevin administration. Sarin’s visit came two weeks prior to Briggs & Stratton’s announcement they are closing their Murray facility, affecting more than 600 full-time jobs.