Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) on Saturday signed controversial legislation that will allow workers to refuse to pay union dues, a victory for Republicans who control the state government for the first time in nearly a century.
The so-called right-to-work law passed the Kentucky state Senate on Saturday. The House, which Republicans captured in November's elections, passed the law last week.
Labor groups protested the measure at the capitol building in Frankfort. The new law, which takes effect immediately, also prohibits public employees from going on strike.
"This is not a piece of legislation that came easily. It did not come without a lot of contention. It did not come without a tremendous amount of passion," Bevin said in a video posted on his Facebook page on Sunday.
"This will mean incredible new opportunities for the Commonwealth of Kentucky."
Kentucky is the 27th state in the country to adopt right-to-work legislation, and the last state in the South to pass such a law.
Republicans who took control of the Kentucky state government have plotted an aggressive assault on unions, abortion rights and other pillars of the Democratic coalition.
The GOP-led House and Senate also passed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, which Bevin said he would sign this weekend.
The legislature is also considering measures to roll back a law requiring construction companies to pay workers prevailing wages for public works projects.
In a statement, Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan called the right-to-work and prevailing wage measures "some of the most extreme anti-workers bills in the nation today, slashing wages and silencing working people across the Commonwealth."
Aside from Kentucky, labor groups are playing defense in such states as Missouri and Iowa, where Democrats suffered losses in November.