right to work

WKU Public Radio

A court of appeals ruling last week that cleared the way for  right-to-work legislation in Kentucky may not be the final word.

The News-Enterprise in Elizabethtown reports the Louisville law firm representing nine unions against Hardin County plans to petition to re-hear the case.

Right to work laws lift mandatory union contributions for new hires. Unions say the law weakens them, allowing workers to get union benefits without having to pay for them.

Hardin County was one of 12 Kentucky counties that passed the legislation last year.

The unions say only states, not counties, have the authority to pass right to work laws. Their lawyer says the three-judge court of appeals misapplied two Supreme Court decisions and took them out of context.

They plan to file a petition within the required 21 days for the full 15 member appeals court to re-hear the case.

LRC Public Information

The top Kentucky House Republican says GOP-backed legislation to ban labor unions from requiring employees to join them is unlikely to get a House vote this year.

House GOP Leader Jeff Hoover said Friday that right-to-work legislation isn't among the top priorities for House Republicans. Senate Republicans have identified it as one of their main priorities.

Hoover's announcement comes two days after a U.S. District Judge in Kentucky ruled that local right-to-work ordinances passed by 12 counties in the commonwealth are illegal.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo says right-to-work legislation doesn't have "a snowball's chance" of passing the Democratic-controlled House.

But House Republicans have been using procedural motions to try to force House votes on some bills. Hoover is downplaying the chances of such maneuvering for the right-to-work bill.

Hoover says he plans to keep pushing for an eventual House vote on legislation to put Planned Parenthood clinics last in line for family planning funds.

WKU Public Radio

The leader of the Kentucky AFL-CIO says labor groups are ready to fight future efforts to pass what supporters call right-to-work laws.

Union groups scored a major legal victory Wednesday when U.S. District Judge David Hale ruled that county governments can’t enact the rules on a local level.

Right-to-work laws prohibit mandatory union membership as a condition of employment.

Twelve Kentucky counties enacted local right-to-work ordinances last year after efforts to pass a statewide version failed in the legislature. Hardin County was one of the dozen that did so, and labor unions filed a suit against the county challenging the legality of the move.

Kentucky AFL-CIO executive director Bill Londrigan says unions know the legal battle isn’t over, despite this week’s court victory.

“We fully expect the defendants to file an appeal on this case, and with the strong, strong ruling by the U.S. District Judge David Hale, we feel that they’re going to be unsuccessful at that level, as well,” Londrigan said.

Supporters of right-to-work say the laws make states more attractive to businesses. This week’s ruling against county right-to-work efforts could mean supporters redouble their efforts to get a statewide law passed.

NPR: 50 Years of Shrinking Union Membership, In One Map

Londrigan says unions are ready for the challenge.

A federal judge says local governments in Kentucky cannot ban mandatory labor union membership as a condition of employment.

In a ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David Hale said only state governments have the authority to opt out of a federal law that allows closed shop or agency shop agreements, which require employees to join a labor union or pay union dues regardless if they are a union member.

Kentucky Republicans have tried to ban such agreements, arguing they act as a disincentive for companies to come to the state and hire workers. Tired of waiting, 12 Kentucky counties passed their own bans. Labor unions sued, challenging Hardin County's ban in federal court.

Hardin County officials could choose to appeal the ruling.

Kentucky was the first state in the nation to have local governments pass these laws.

Both sides of the right-to-work controversy say a hearing Tuesday in federal court in Louisville was fair. 

U.S. District Judge David Hale heard arguments on whether local governments can pass right-to-work laws.  A group of labor unions sued Hardin County after magistrates there approved an ordinance earlier this year. 

In the courtroom was Bill Londrigan, head of the Kentucky AFLI-CIO.  He argues right-to-work laws cripple unions.

"Right to work laws lead to lower wages for workers across the board and we feel that is very poor public policy to be promoting laws or statutes that undermine workers' ability to have a good wage and good standard of living," Londrigan told WKU Public Radio.

Also present at the hearing was Jim Waters of the Bluegrass Institute which has been encouraging counties to pass local right-to-work laws.

"The opponents want to say that doing this will create confusion and mass problems while we know what will happen is it will give individual workers more freedom over whether they join a union and pay dues or not," Waters commented.

Twelve Kentucky counties have approved local right-to-work ordinances.  Others are waiting to see how the court case is settled. 

A ruling is expected in the fall, and regardless of which side wins, appeals are expected.

Supporters of right-to-work laws have had a hard time passing legislation in Kentucky through the Democrat-controlled House and governor’s office.

But if Republican candidate for governor Matt Bevin is elected, the House’s slim eight-person majority would be the only thing standing in the way of the legislation, which would forbid unions from demanding dues from its members as a condition of employment.

Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan called Bevin a “Scott Walker clone,” comparing him to the Wisconsin governor known for anti-union politics.

“Right to work laws really undermine the ability of all workers to have a decent standard of living by undermining the ability of unions to negotiate effective contracts," Londrigan stated.

Right-to-work legislation was the Republican-led Senate’s top priority in the 2015 General Assembly. The body passed the measure in the first days of the session.

Earlier this summer, Governor Steve Beshear said the policy would do nothing to bring jobs to the state, calling it "artificial political issue.”

Local Right to Work Case Heads to Federal Court

Aug 4, 2015
Lisa Autry

A federal judge will hear arguments on Tuesday about whether a Kentucky local government can stop employers from making workers join labor unions.

At least 12 counties in Kentucky have passed so-called "right to work" ordinances, the only such ordinances in the country. Labor leaders sued Hardin County after it passed its ordinance. Advocates say the ordinances help the counties attract jobs while labor leaders say it would hurt their negotiation power and could lead to lower wages.

It has become an issue in Kentucky's race for governor. Democratic nominee Jack Conway is also the state attorney general. His office put out an opinion last year saying local governments do not have the authority to pass such laws. Republican nominee Matt Bevin supports the laws saying it is the only way to keep Kentucky competitive.

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

Kentucky's ban on corporate contributions to political parties and state candidates is being challenged by a group pushing right-to-work legislation opposed by organized labor.

Protect My Check Inc. filed a lawsuit Thursday in Kentucky seeking to overturn the corporate contribution ban.

The federal lawsuit claims the ban violates equal protection and free-speech rights.

Protect My Check says it wants to make political contributions but is prohibited by Kentucky law. The group pushes legislation allowing employees at unionized workplaces to opt out of paying union dues without losing their jobs.

Protect My Check notes unions and limited liability corporations can contribute to candidates and political parties in Kentucky.

Defendants are Kentucky Registry of Election Finance officials. Registry officials declined immediate comment, saying they had not yet seen the suit.

Boone County has become the first county in northern Kentucky to pass a local right-to-work law. 

The fiscal court voted unanimously Tuesday night to join ten other Kentucky counties in approving the controversial measures, which prohibit mandatory union membership as a condition of employment. 

Meanwhile, Oldham County government has voted to table its right-to-work ordinance until a federal lawsuit is resolved.  A group of labor unions has a suit pending against Hardin County for passing a similar ordinance. 

This past January, the Republican-led Kentucky Senate did what it does just about every year: It passed a statewide right-to-work bill.

Keeping with tradition, when the bill arrived at the Democratic-controlled House, it died.

For decades, Democrats have rejected efforts to allow employees in unionized companies the freedom to choose whether to join a union.

Now, the battle has shifted from the statehouse to individual counties.

Lisa Autry

Republican gubernatorial candidate James Comer says passing a statewide right-to-work law would be his first priority if elected as Kentucky's next governor.

Comer, Kentucky’s agriculture commissioner and a Monroe County native,  predicts the issue will be hotly debated during the general election, given that Democratic front-runner Jack Conway opposes such a law.

Right-to-work laws prohibit private-sector workers from being forced to join labor unions. Critics maintain they’re being used as a tool to crush labor organizations and drive down workers’ wages.

Comer says becoming right-to-work would help Kentucky compete for jobs against its neighbors.

“If you want to be considered a business-friendly state, one of the first things you have to do in your state is become right-to-work," Comer says.

Several Kentucky counties have passed, or are in the process of passing, local right-to-work ordinances. Marshall County this week became the first county in the state to pass a resolution denouncing right-to-work measures.

Another judge has ruled against Indiana’s two-year-old right-to-work law.

Lake County Judge George Paras ruled this week the law forcing unions to provide services for workers who don’t pay dues, is against the constitution. The Evansville Courier & Press reports that led Indiana’s attorney general to request a stay of that ruling until the State Supreme Court takes up another judge’s ruling at a September 4th hearing. 

The right-to-work legislation was passed in 2012 by a Republican-dominated legislature.

Right to Work Bill Fails to Clear Kentucky Panel

Mar 13, 2014
Kentucky LRC

Right-to-work legislation has died in the Kentucky House of Representatives.

The Republican-backed bill was met with stiff opposition from labor unions and House Democrats.

Committee Room 149 was standing room only, with union members crossed-armed along the edges of the packed hearing on a bill that would prohibit workers from paying union dues as a condition of employment.

They say the measure filed by House GOP Floor Leader Jeff Hoover would lower wages for all workers.

Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan says the decline in American jobs is related to free-trade agreements.

“It’s happening alright. Thirty-six-thousand-four-hundred jobs since 2001 due to our flawed trade agreements with China. Maybe we should be talking about that, and not right-to-work," Londrigan said to applause from many in the audience.

The Indiana Supreme Court has let stand the fines levied by state House Republicans on Democrats for their walkout over a controversial right-to-work bill.

Justices split 3-2 on an opinion issued Tuesday finding that the constitutional separation of powers bars the courts from interfering in internal legislative decisions. The state's highest court approved a request that the case be dismissed.

Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the majority that it is not the court's role to assess punishments within the legislative branch of government. Justices Loretta Rush and Robert Rucker dissented, writing that the House's "discretion to punish its members" doesn't include withholding pay.

Majority House Republicans ordered the state auditor to withhold the fines from Democrats who spent weeks at an Illinois hotel in protest of the right-to-work bill in 2011, and staged another walkout the following year.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is taking a firmer stand on conservative issues. Republican legislators have criticized the chamber in the past for supporting Democratic-led proposals like expanded gambling and a higher dropout age while staying quiet on so-called right to work and prevailing wage laws.