Kentucky Becomes 27th Right-to-Work State

Published January 25, 2017

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed into law a bill allowing workers to opt out of union membership, removing requirements that workers join a union as a condition of employment.

The bill took effect immediately upon being signed in January 2017, making Kentucky the 27th state with a right-to-work law.

Prior to the bill’s passage, 13 county governments in the state had passed right-to-work ordinances. The new law expands worker freedom laws to all 120 counties.

Warren County Example

Jim Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, says counties with right-to-work laws, such as Warren County, have been growing faster than those without such ordinances.

“Currently, the economic environment in Warren County is such that there are 55,000 job openings within a 50-mile radius of where that right-to-work ordinance was passed, with another 12,000 prospective jobs expected in the new year,” Waters said. “For one county in Kentucky, that’s pretty significant.”

Waters says local lawmakers from both political parties support the new law.

“We had many locally elected Democrats who supported this, because their counties were along the borders of other states that had right-to-work laws, and they were tired of losing out,” Waters said. “For them, it had nothing to do with partisanship; it had to do with their constituents.”

Cites Job and Wage Growth

Stan Greer, a senior research associate at the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, says right-to-work laws boost job growth and workers’ wages.

“There’s no doubt, and the other side really can’t deny, that there’s a strong correlation between right-to-work laws and faster growth in jobs, employee compensation, overall personal income, and the number of people covered by private health insurance,” Greer said.