Legally challenging the validity of local right-to-work laws passed by Kentucky counties seems the only viable option for labor-union officials concerned about losing money and members if individual workers gain the freedom to say “no” to union dues without losing their jobs.
Like their collective-bargaining agreements, several unions bundled their anger together and filed a lawsuit at the federal courthouse in Louisville against the Hardin County Fiscal Court, which on Jan. 14 became the fifth Kentucky county to pass a local right-to-work ordinance.
The union brothers and sisters – presumably along with an inflatable pink pig they brought along and blew up as part of an anti-right-to-work demonstration recently outside the Clark County Courthouse in Winchester – hope newly appointed Judge David Hale will rule that federal law preempts counties from passing such ordinances.
From a legal aspect, this issue is undecided – but presumably only until judges who end up involved in this case do what they are charged to do: abide by the Constitution, particularly its Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
That means limiting the federal’s government’s reach to only those areas clearly granted it by the U.S. Constitution while reserving certain governmental powers to both states as long as it’s not prohibited by the federal document “or to the people,” as the Tenth Amendment states.
Nowhere does that Constitution prohibit states from delegating to counties – as Kentucky did in 1978 – the authority to pass their own right-to-work ordinances. It’s even possible that a constitutionally centric judge will find that when it comes to the power in this case, the states and people hold all of the cards.
Still, the case must be heard – just like the University of Kentucky basketball Wildcats must still go play each game even if they are favored to become the first team in nearly four decades to go undefeated.
The final outcome remains uncertain until the ruling is made.
However, there’s no uncertainty that not only was that inflatable pig the cutest – or at least the pinkest – inflatable entity I’ve seen, but also that right-to-work laws make a state more attractive to companies looking to expand or relocate.
Any uncertainty is removed by site-selection experts themselves whose statements were noted in a legislative committee hearing in Frankfort last March:
- “We, as economic developers, are asked to do a job, yet we are significantly hampered by Kentucky’s non right-to-work status. We have significant competition already from other Midwestern and Southern states to attract international and domestic manufacturing opportunities. … Estimates from site-selection experts indicate that anywhere from one-third to half of all manufacturing projects do not consider Kentucky because of our right-to-work status.” –Daniel E. Tobergate, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED president and CEO
- “Approximately 40 percent to 50 percent of our clients still prefer making right-to-work a qualifying pass-fail criteria. … Kentucky is considered for fewer manufacturing projects than if they were a right-to-work state.–Mark Sweeney, Sr. Principal, McCallum Sweeney Consulting, Greenville, South Carolina
- “A majority of Atlas Insight’s manufacturing clients, especially those manufacturers from European countries looking to expand in the U.S., express a definite preference for right-to-work states. In fact, unionized states are often filtered out on the first screen and won’t even make the long list of locations.” Kathy Mussio, Managing Partner, Atlas Insight LLC, New Jersey
- “One of the first filters that can eliminate a state from site location consideration is its right-to-work status. … when a corporation uses their own process your state will be nearly immediately removed from consideration.” –Josh Bays, Site Selection Group, LLC, Dallas, Texas
Right-to-work opponents claim that a state’s right-to-work status doesn’t figure prominently into companies’ decisions on where to expand or relocate. But repeating such a mantra doesn’t make it so – any more than claiming pigs fly.