The anti-worker forces are at it again. Last winter a small handful Kentucky counties passed their own so called “right to work” ordinances which apply to companies and unions in their county. The anti-union gang has never succeeded in getting RTW passed in our General Assembly, and now they are trying to make an end run around the state legislature – and an end run around the law. As we all know, so called right to work has nothing to do with a person’s right to work but everything to do with starving unions and depressing workers’ wages and working conditions. In RTW states, workers can enjoy all the benefits of a union contract without paying one red cent to the union which negotiated their wages, benefits and worker protections.
As numerous studies have found, workers in RTW states earn less than those in free bargaining states; they have lower rates of health insurance and pension coverage; and they suffer higher rates of fatalities on the job. If Hardin County, Warren County and a few others are successful, the inevitable result is that wages will decrease, benefits will decrease, and the middle class with shrink even more.
Because counties do not have the power under the National Labor Relations Act to pass these right to shirk ordinances, we filed a lawsuit in federal court to have the Hardin County ordinance declared unconstitutional, null and void and to enjoin the county from enforcing it. Unions and companies have the right (and have had the right since 1935) to agree to a union shop so that all employees pay their fair share of the cost of union representation – no freeloaders allowed. As the U.S. Supreme Court has said, “Congress recognized the validity of unions’ concerns about ‘free riders,’ i.e., employees who receive the benefits of union representation but are unwilling to contribute their fair share.” The only exception allowed by law is Section 14(b) which permits states (and territories), but not counties, to outlaw union security.
Every court that has been faced with what Hardin County has tried to do have flat out ruled that, under federal law, only states, not political subdivisions, can pass RTW laws. After all interested parties filed legal briefs, Hardin County’s attorney and I appeared before Federal Judge David Hale on August 4 to argue the case. We are now waiting for his decision.