How much do you know about employee and workplace rights in Kentucky?
News Alert: Forty organizations join together for National Employee Freedom Week, remind workers of their options regarding union membership
Bluegrass Institute joins groups in 30 states in national campaign to promote employee freedom
(Lexington, KY )– Today, the Bluegrass Institute announced its participation in National Employee Freedom Week, a first-of-its-kind national campaign to remind union members about the freedom they have to leave their unions.
National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW) is June 23-29 and will highlight how unionized employees often don’t know that they have the legal right to opt-out of union membership. It also will help educate those employees on their options so they can make decisions about union membership that best fit their employment needs.
NEFW is a national campaign with 40 partner organizations in 30 states across the nation.
The Bluegrass Institute will celebrate NEFW by conducting outreach efforts that include providing generic opt-out letters and highlighting alternatives to union membership.
The Bluegrass Institute will also release the results of a poll of union households in Kentucky showing a startlingly high percentage of union members are interested in leaving their unions. This information will be released on Monday, June 24.
“Workers need to understand their individual freedoms when employed,” said Stephan F. Gohmann, Ph.D., BB&T Distinguished Professor in Free Enterprise at the University of Louisville and a member of the Bluegrass Institute Board of Scholars. “Individual liberty is an important concept that can be applied to the work environment as workers choose to opt out of their union membership and stand as individuals.”
The number of organizations participating in National Employee Freedom Week is expected to increase in the coming weeks.More information is available at http://EmployeeFreedomWeek.
It’s perfectly legal to buy over-the-counter tooth whitening products and use them. But if you pay a nondentist for help in doing so, that person may be committing the crime (!) of practicing dentistry without a license. Kentucky passed just such a prohibition on teeth whitening in 2010, apparently with little-to-no debate.
Today’s Wall Street Journal features an op-ed by Angela C. Erickson and Paul Sherman of the Institute for Justice detailing the institute’s suit against Alabama for this kind of prohibition. The issue holds broad implications for other kinds of employment where a powerful lobby can effectively shut out even the smallest of competitors. The authors note that of the complaints, the overwhelming majority come from would-be competitors:
The Institute for Justice’s “White Out” study, released Tuesday, documents that dissatisfied consumers are not the force behind restrictions that shut down teeth-whitening businesses in malls and salons. Overwhelmingly, it is dental-industry interests. Of the 97 complaints about non-dentist teeth whitening provided to the institute from 17 state agencies, only four came from consumers. All four alleged reversible side effects, like gum inflammation and tooth sensitivity. Academic dental research shows that such side effects are common to all forms of teeth whitening, wherever it is done.
The remaining 93 complaints came from dentists, hygienists, dental boards, associations and anonymous individuals. They didn’t allege harm to consumers as a result of commercial on-site whitening. The complaint was that entrepreneurs offering teeth-whitening services are practicing dentistry without a license.
As a result of these unlicensed-practice complaints and pressure from licensed dentists and associations, at least 30 states have taken action against non-dentist teeth-whitening businesses. Some of the states have passed new laws or regulations to ban them from the trade. Others have simply reinterpreted existing laws against the unlicensed practice of dentistry.
But until recently, a key ingredient in determining the efficacy of the right to work without being forced to pay union dues has been ignored – cost of living adjustments. A new report from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy finds that when comparing apples to apples by correcting for different costs of living among the states, per-capita incomes are actually higher in right-to-work states than in forced unionization states.
Correcting for cost of living becomes very important when one realizes a dollar in Kentucky will buy you significantly more than a dollar in New York or California. Thus, an individual making $30,000 per year in Kentucky is significantly better off than an identical individual making the same nominal income in New York. In short, $30,000 in Kentucky has significantly greater purchasing power than $30,000 in New York. Dollars are worth less in New York simply because there’s so many of them floating around in that densely populated financial capital of the country.
Thus, to truly ascertain how right-to-work legislation affects the quality of life for individuals in different states, we must correct for the different costs of living across the country. And once we do, it turns out right-to-work states have 4.1% higher per-capita incomes than those in forced unionization states.
In additions, since 2001, right-to-work states have added 1.7 million jobs while forced unionization states have lost 2.1 million jobs. Right-to-work states also boast unemployment rates a full percentage point lower than their unionized counterparts.
So why is Kentucky not giving its citizens the same right to work that our neighbors in Tennessee and Indiana have? The mystery continues.
2012 has been a big year for right-to-work – that is, Americans’ right to seek employment without being forced to pay tribute to a labor union.
In the past year, neighboring Indiana has adopted right-to-work legislation while Wisconsin ended collective bargaining for public workers. Most recently, even Michigan, the autoworker union capital of the world, embraced Americans’ right to work.
So what does this mean for Kentucky, a forced-union state that’s surrounded by right-to-work laws to both the north and south? It means that some of the state’s largest union bosses are going to have to squeeze dues out their members all the harder to stay in power.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, since the peak levels of 1989, the percentage of Kentucky workers who belong to a union has steadily fallen from 14.8% to 8.9%, which is below the national average of 11.9%. The most powerful unions in the commonwealth are the usual suspects: companies like Ford and GE are union hot beds, and how could we forget to mention the teachers unions.
But one surprising find is that Toyota, whose Georgetown, KY car manufacturing plant required no federal bailout during the recent banking crisis, is a non-union establishment. Despite union leaders campaigning just outside Toyota’s fences for years, Toyota’s workers are apparently too content to establish forced unionization in Georgetown.
The Georgetown plant is the antithesis to what brought down the “Big Three” automakers in Michigan – bloated unions and shady perks that proved economically disastrous for the entire state.
If workers believe in a certain union, then fine. They should be allowed to enter into a voluntary contract with that union and enjoy all the costs and benefits that ensue.
But if a worker does not believe that joining a specific union is in his or her best interest, the worker should still be able to seek employment without being forced through the use or threat of violence to pay costly dues to that organization.
Respect for individual liberty demands the right-to-work.
Citing the Bluegrass Institute’s recent “Future Shock” report and its author Lowell Reese, Courier-Journal columnist John David Dyche points to reforming the state’s pension system as the top agenda for the fall political campaigns.
Pension reform was followed by other policy positions in alignment with the Bluegrass Institute’s mission, including charter schools, right-to-work, getting rid of prevailing-wage requirements on public construction projects.
Dyche mentions the institute’s report a second time with reference to the state’s debt. In a recent Bluegrass Beacon column, I recently made the case once again for limiting state debt to 6 percent of General Fund revenues.
“Reports say the debt rate will be 8.6 percent in 2013,” Dyche writes.
More good news this week for our neighbors to the north – this time out of the Buckeye State. Just across the Ohio River, a federal court emphatically reaffirmed the 1st Amendment rights of the citizens of Cincinnati by allowing them to promote right-to-work legislation.
Until the ruling, students in the University of Cincinnati chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) were greatly restricted in collecting signatures on a petition supporting the Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment, a right-to-work statute in Ohio.
Because of this ruling, the young people of Cincinnati are now free to voice their support for the individual liberty of laborers in Ohio to make voluntary agreements with employers without the coercive, third-party influence of labor unions.
The judiciary in Kentucky has yet to stand up for this sort of right-to-work legislation, but Ohioans in Cincinnati have.
The Bluegrass Institute is helping call attention to sound policies in concert with our freedom pillars of free-market capitalism, limited government and individual freedom.
One of those policies we have, and will continue, to promote is known as “right to work.” Such laws “protect workers’ freedom by not forcing them to pay dues to a union before becoming employed and/or throughout employment.”
I talked to WFPL 89.3 FM recently about the possibility of increased momentum for a right-to-work law in Kentucky now that Indiana has become the 23rd state to pass such a statute.
Indiana’s decision means that states both to the south and the north of Kentucky’s borders have right-to-work laws.
Let’s hope that means momentum for more freedom — and more business — in the Bluegrass State!
This week our very own Jim Waters, President of the Bluegrass Institute, hosted “The Afternoon Show” on Lexington’s WLAP. During the broadcast, Waters had the opportunity to interview Dick Carpenter, co-author of the Institute for Justice’s recently released report entitled “License to Work” – a study that compares occupational licensing burdens across the states.
Kentucky’s occupational licensing regulations are 15th most burdensome in the nation.
During the interview, Carpenter shed light on the ways these sorts of regulations harm mid to lower-income professionals and how his organization “represents the interests and individuals who are interested in working in the occupation of their choice but find that they are shut out by onerous and needless government regulations.”
He also shared the eye-opening story of Mississippi licensing regulations for hair-braiders. Yes, even hair-braiders must seek government licenses in some states, and in Mississippi these regulations were suppressing the supply of those services.
But as Carpenter explained, “Once they got rid of that law, almost immediately, 300 people registered as hair-braiders in Mississippi. What they did was they got rid of the cosmetology laws and they just had a simple registration … once they did that, 300 people entered the formal economy and started working as hair-braiders in Mississippi.”
What a testament to the way government over-regulating can affect mid to lower-income workers.
So just how do state governments decide which occupations to burden and which to favor? Dick Carpenter had an answer:
“It’s what Milton Friedman called the power of the concentrated interests. These groups of individuals go in. They lobby the legislature, and they are able to influence the legislature … when the diffused interests – that’s the rest of us who aren’t represented – we don’t have a voice. And so the only substantive voice being heard is those of the associations or groups that have banded together to go in and try to lobby for their particular license.”
According to a new study released by the Institute for Justice called “License to Work,” the low to middle income professions Kentucky does regulate are some of the most burdened jobs in the country. Among the 50 states, Kentucky has the 15th most burdensome licensing laws.
Although Kentucky’s occupational licensing requirements are unnecessarily stringent, the Bluegrass State only requires licenses for 27 out of the 102 jobs researched by the study. That’s good news for young professionals entering the workforce who don’t have to jump through quite as many hoops to begin making a decent living in the commonwealth.
Still, those hoping to enter one of Kentucky’s 27 regulated professions will have to work that much harder just to get their foot in the door compared to our neighbors.