Kentucky Gov. Bevin Asks for Right-to-Work Lawsuit Ruling

Published July 24, 2017

Lawyers representing Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) filed paperwork in July to dismiss an attempt to overturn the state’s right-to-work law.

State lawyers asked Franklin County, Kentucky Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate to issue a summary judgement dismissing the lawsuit, filed in May by the state chapter of the AFL-CIO and Teamsters Local 89.

The local and state labor unions claim Kentucky’s right-to-work law, which took effect in January, violates labor organizations’ civil rights by allowing individuals to decide whether they want to pay union dues and join the association.

A hearing on the case is currently scheduled for November 29.

Constitutional Right to Money?

Stan Greer, a senior research associate with the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, says labor unions are arguing they have a right to other people’s money.

“What the unions are arguing in Kentucky, and in similar litigation in other states, is that federal law, with regard to private-sector employees at least, authorizes unions to act as the exclusive bargaining agent of employees, including employees who don’t choose to join the union,” Greer said. “Unions argue that as long as federal law does that, then it is unconstitutional to prohibit union officials from extracting compulsory fees from people who don’t want to join the union.”

Who Knows Best?

The central question in the lawsuit is whether workers or union bosses know what’s best for workers, Greer says.

“The premise of the Kentucky case, and others, is that all employees who are subject to exclusivity in bargaining benefit from it and, as a consequence, all should be forced to pay,” Greer says. “With regard to the individual employee, no one knows better than he or she whether they benefit from joining a union.”

‘The Last Holdout’

Julia Crigler, director of the Kentucky chapter of Americans for Prosperity, says Kentucky was bound to establish worker freedom sooner or later.

“Kentucky is one of the last states in the South that didn’t have these types of labor reforms,” Crigler said. “It was kind of the last holdout, which is why there really was such a big push. We’re surrounded by states that have right-to-work on almost every side, with the exception of Ohio and Illinois. Kentucky legislators, with their first opportunity, made this their number one priority. We weren’t in a position to be competitive with our economic climate.”

Immediate Results

Kentucky lawmakers approved right-to-work legislation as soon as they could, Crigler says, and Kentuckians are already seeing results.

“Right-to-work and other labor reforms all passed within the first six days of the legislature convening for its first session with the new [Republican] majority,” Crigler said. “Additionally, an emergency clause was put on so they [reforms] took effect within days of being signed by the governor, so they could immediately make an impact.

“What we’ve seen is companies like Brady Industries coming in and coming into eastern Kentucky with good, salaried wages—550 jobs being created,” Crigler said. “And what did the CEO do at the announcement? He said he would not be in Kentucky if it were not a right-to-work state today.”