Kentucky Supreme Court Will Hear Right-to-Work Lawsuit

Published May 14, 2018

The Kentucky state Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law prohibiting unions from requiring all employees to pay dues in unionized workplaces.

Lawyers representing the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations and other unions are fighting to overturn Franklin County, Kentucky Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate’s February 14 ruling against the plaintiffs.

The unions are asking the state Supreme Court to overturn Wingate’s decision ┬ádismissing the case. ┬áThe state Court of Appeals granted an April 18 motion filed by the union lawyers sending the case directly to the Supreme Court.

Oral arguments are scheduled to begin on August 10.

In 2017, Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law a bill allowing workers to opt out of union membership, thus preventing unions and employers from requiring workers join a union as a condition of employment.

Says RTW Benefits Unions

Dalia Marciukaityte, an associate professor of finance at Illinois State University and a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News, says everybody wins with right-to-work (RTW) laws, including unions.

“Companies in right-to-work states invest more,” Marciukaityte said. “When companies invest more, they grow and eventually hire more employees. Even if a firm is unionized but it is in a state that has right-to-work laws, its capital investment will be higher. If capital investment is higher, there will be more jobs eventually.”

History of Success

Timothy Gilliam, deputy state director for the Kentucky chapter of Americans for Prosperity, says RTW policies already have a track record of creating jobs in the state.

“We are now the 27th RTW state in the country, but preceding that, we were the first state in the country to pass local RTW ordinances, at the county level,” Gilliam said. “Warren County was the first county to pass a local right-to-work ordinance, in December of 2014. Since that time, they’ve seen over $1.5 billion in investment.

“Another 13 counties passed right-to-work ordinances from late 2014 to early 2015,” Gilliam said. “The vast majority of these counties are situated along the Kentucky-Tennessee border. Their local officials, whether it was in the county government or in the local chambers, are business leaders who recognized how much of a disadvantage Kentucky was at compared to Tennessee, a right-to-work state.”

Sees Culture Shift

Marciukaityte says people are starting to realize unions exist to help themselves instead of serving workers.

“We’re seeing a potential culture shift because the majority of workers simply do not believe unions are helping them,” Marciukaityte said. “If they did, unionization would be growing, but it is actually declining.

“All the evidence we are seeing indicates that unions are not good for workers in the long run,” Marciukaityte said. “Based on the numbers, it is obvious most workers know this.”

‘Huge Investments Announced’

Gilliam says a growing number of businesses are moving to Kentucky because of its worker-freedom law.

“Economic development officials always talk about the value of RTW and how it’s a huge consideration for their selection process,” Gilliam said. “In April of last year, Brady Industries, an aluminum mill, chose to locate in eastern Kentucky. During the press conference announcing the company was building a $1.3 billion aluminum mill and creating 550 jobs, the CEO said if Kentucky wasn’t a right-to-work state, it wouldn’t have been on the list.”

Gilliam says Kentucky’s RTW law benefits everyday residents.

“We’ve also had huge investments announced by Amazon and Toyota since becoming a right-to-work state, so it is clear that it is having a tremendous impact on our economy,” Gilliam said.