In January 2017, Gov. Matt Bevin ignored the cries of local steelworkers in Ashland, Kentucky, by gutting funding for the Ashland Career Center, a local career organization designed to help guide local steel mill workers to their next position incase of layoffs.
Nearly two years later, in September 2019, almost 260 steel workers employed at AK Steel in Ashland were given notice they would likely be laid off, and now are left without a fully functioning resource center to help them find their next job because of Bevin’s steep cuts to the Ashland Career Center.
Bevin’s move to cut funding to the career center was widely criticized by local officials in Ashland at the time, as the city was still reeling from over 633 layoffs by AK Steel that were rendered in 2015.
“We are the biggest city east of Lexington and we’ve suffered massive layoffs with AK Steel and the vendors that service AK Steel,” former state Rep. Kevin Sinnette said to the Daily Independent in January 2017. “It feels like another slap in the face for this region.”
Many of these recently laid off workers may now have to travel over 120 miles round trip to Morehead or Prestonsburg for basic services, such as help obtaining unemployment insurance, as the Ashland Career Center now does not have enough staff on hand to support the hundreds of workers through their transition.
“You look at how many people we’ve got laid off, it’s a 7-1 ratio for every AK steelworker,” said Steelworkers Union Local 1865 President Mike Howard in 2017. “That’s not including workers at CSX and Mansbach (Metal.)”
Sinnette — who represented Ashland — charged that Bevin’s move to cut funding for the Ashland Career Center reeks of political vengeance.
According to reporting by the Daily Independent, Bevin threatened Sinnette with political retribution after Sinnette declined to change political parties for the governor. “(The) individuals impacted by this decision are the true victims,” Sinnette said in January 2017.
A few weeks later, an independent commission in the Kentucky State House produced a report which successfully determined that Bevin pressured Sinnette to change political parties.
In November, Bevin is running for reelection as Kentucky Governor. According to polling by Morning Consult, Bevin is currently the least popular Governor in America.