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For the first time in about a century, there are no working union coal miners in Kentucky. The state’s few remaining union coal miners were laid off New Years Eve when Patriot Coal’s Highland Mine in Western Kentucky shut down.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Erica Peterson of WFPL reports that the union is struggling to appeal to younger coal miners, but others feel organized labor still has a role to play.

The Kentucky legislature is working to keep up with relatively new on-line ride-sharing services. The House Transportation Committee Tuesday approved a Senate measure which impacts the ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber.

The bill's supporters say it serves to protect riders and company drivers by guaranteeing adequate insurance coverage. Oldham County Senator Ernie Harris is sponsoring the bill. "It clears the way for them to continue to operate and be regulated and have a level playing field with regard to insurance requirements," said Harris.

Harris says the measure also seeks to allow for enough flexibility through regulations to keep up with changes in ride-sharing businesses or Transportation Network Companies. "What do you do when an Uber or Lyft driver turns their app on their phone between then and when they actually get to pick up their passenger?" asked Harris. "That has been the sticking point."

Harris says an emergency insurance regulation could be put in place in the next few months. If enacted, the new law would not become effective until mid-July. Harris says transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft have typically exceeded state standards for liability insurance coverage.

Flickr/Creative Commons

Louisville is one of 21 communities across the U.S. committing to increasing access to high tech jobs, city officials said Monday.

The city’s effort is part of a larger federal initiative announced Monday aimed at getting Americans to fill the increasing number of vacant information technology jobs in the U.S.

Employers around the country are having a hard time finding qualified and skilled workers for these positions. The national initiative, announced by President Obama, aims to get communities to train people for those jobs.

During a conference call with the White House, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer was identified as one of the community leaders working with employers and the federal government to extend training opportunities to residents.

The next President and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce won’t have to go far to begin her new job.

The chamber announced Thursday that Candance Brake will lead the organization beginning March 16.

Brake was most recently Executive Director of the Green River Area Community Foundation in Owensboro, which shares a building with the Chamber of Commerce.  She served as an Owensboro City Commissioner from 2004 until 2010, and was previously an executive vice-president of the chamber.

Brake earned her bachelor’s degree from Brescia University in Owensboro, and has a Masters of Public Administration from WKU.

A Japanese corporation is planning a $15 million expansion at its manufacturing site in Bowling Green.

NHK of America Suspension Components Incorporated (NASCO) is adding a new building next to its existing facility in Warren County. The new location will manufacture automotive suspension coil springs, and is expected to be completed within two years.

NASCO employs 280 people, and its  Japanese parent company owns another operation in Warren County (Topura America Fastener), Franklin (New Mather Materials), and Louisville (NHK Spring Precision of America). In all, NHK International Corporation employs about 1,000 Kentucky workers.

Some 500,000 Wal-Mart employees will soon be getting a pay raise. Starting in April, the company's full- and part-time U.S. employees will earn at least $9 an hour, at least $1.75 above today's federal minimum wage.

The pay boost will also apply to employees of Sam's Club, which is owned by Wal-Mart.

The retailer says wages will jump to at least $10 one year from now.

400-Worker Pillsbury Plant in New Albany to Close

Feb 12, 2015

A union representative says General Mills is moving ahead with its plans to shutter a southern Indiana Pillsbury plant and a neighboring business that together employ more than 400 workers. 

General Mills announced last month it would close its Pillsbury plant and neighboring Sonoco business in New Albany by mid-2016, pending discussions with union officials. 

The Courier-Journal reports Union Local 33G President Roger Miller announced Thursday it's negotiated aclosing agreement with the company.  If union members agree to the terms, layoffs are tentatively scheduled to begin early next year. 

The Pillsbury plant opened in New Albany in 1959 and is its fifth-largest employer. Workers make crescent rolls, pizza dough and other refrigerated baked goods.

Kevin Willis

Visitors can sip tea or soda — but no bourbon — at the Jim Beam Distillery's restaurant in central Kentucky. The drink menu could add the distillery's famed whiskey if a bill that advanced Wednesday becomes state law.

"Wouldn't it be nice to have a nice Knob Creek on the rocks while you're enjoying a ... barbecue sandwich?" Kristin Meadors with the Kentucky Distillers' Association said after the bill cleared a House panel.

The measure would allow Kentucky distilleries to sell their own products by the drink on their premises. Visitors could sip a small-batch bourbon or a mint julep at special distillery events or after taking tours.

Distilleries now are limited to offering two one-half-ounce free samples per guest.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (Flickr Creative Commons)

A new partnership between WKU and EKU will make it easier for workers in the Bowling Green and Owensboro areas to receive OSHA certification.

EKU houses the only OSHA Training Institute Education Center in Kentucky. But under an agreement between the two schools, EKU personnel will lead OSHA training courses at the Knicely Conference Center in Bowling Green, and at the WKU-Owensboro campus.

Dr. Sue Parrigin, with WKU’s Career and Workforce Development office, says the idea is to expand the number of individuals in the region who can lead OSHA training classes.

“OSHA has what’s called a 10-hour and a 30-hour card, and these trainers will be prepared to go into business and industry and train employees in order to receive their 10 and 30-hour certification with OSHA.”

During 2013-14, EKU’s OSHA Training Center enrolled more than 1,800 students in classes taught in Richmond and Louisville. EKU authorized outreach trainers led 820 classes for more than 9,000 10 and 30-hour OSHA certification.

An automotive supplier in Christian County is expanding operations and increasing its workforce by a third. 

Douglas Autotech Corporation plans to create 115 jobs over the next three years.  The Hopkinsville plant opened in 1995 and has a current workforce of 230 people. 

"The automotive industry is a key component of our economy, and Douglas Autotech adds to the strength and success of the industry in the state," said Governor Steve Beshear in a news release.

The company, which produces automotive controls and steering columns, is planning to invest more than $14 million in new equipment for the plant. 

Douglas Autotech was preliminarily approved for up to $3 million in state tax incentives.

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