While 12 Kentucky counties have passed American’s first local right-to-work ordinances, only one – Hardin County, which passed legislation in January allowing employees to say “no” to paying union dues without losing their jobs – has been the subject of a lawsuit by labor unions.
Some county magistrates who supported first readings of local right-to-work ordinances have been subjected to verbal intimidation by labor-union bosses and, as a result, are considering waiting until the lawsuit against Hardin is resolved before moving forward.
However, there are good reasons for counties to dismiss the union hype and move forward now on right-to-work ordinances:
- The reason only one right-to-work county is facing a lawsuit is that labor unions have the venue they sought in a federal courtroom in Louisville. Unions have little interest or incentive in filing elsewhere as they clearly lack standing in many counties and do not believe they have much chance for legal success.
- Judge-executives and fiscal-court magistrates in counties with no private unionized employers need not even worry about legal action as labor unions cannot get standing to file a lawsuit in counties where they lack a presence.
- Even in counties with unionized employers in the private sector, unions can get standing only if the contract is up for renewal in 2015. Even then, if a union contract is up for renewal between July 2015 and December 2015, the union involved “would have a tough time showing it was affected by an ordinance, since it isn’t even in negotiations for a new contract until after the Hardin case is decided,” (likely sometime in June), said legal expert Brent Yessin with national nonprofit Protect My Check.
- Companies looking to expand or relocate are not waiting to express an interest in coming to Kentucky until the lawsuit is resolved. Why should Kentucky’s local leaders? Employers already are contacting counties that have passed right-to-work ordinances, making it obvious they don’t believe much in either the unions’ propaganda or chances for courtroom success.
- More than 30 companies have shown interest in projects – representing 3,000-plus jobs and $300,000 in capital investment – in Warren County since that southcentral Kentucky county’s fiscal court passed the nation’s first local right-to-work ordinance on Dec. 19.
- Unlike Warren County, there are no private-sector union employers in Rockcastle County. So by passing its own right-to-work ordinance, Rockcastle County, led by Judge-Executive Doug Bishop, can now be placed on companies’ site-selection lists without facing a union lawsuit as no unions have standing in that county. Rockcastle County will have a head start on counties that buy into the union hype or legal fear mongering.
- Despite their lack of standing and chances of success in court, unions continue to try and intimidate local leaders from moving ahead by showing up at fiscal-court meetings and publicly chastising magistrates for moving forward and “wasting taxpayers’ money on an unnecessary legal battle” or some such nonsense. Again, unions don’t even have legal standing in most counties, which renders moot most of their legal threats.
- Even if a union did file suit against another county, the fees will not be paid for by taxpayers but by Protect My Check, a national non-profit organization which is raising the funds to cover such costs and has already has agreements with several counties that have moved ahead with right-to-work ordinances. The Kentucky Association of Counties (KACO) is – as it should be – covering the legal fees for Hardin County.
- Union bosses have promised county leaders that we won’t hear nary a peep from them again if they lose the Hardin County case. Believing this claim would require a complete suspension of reality as the unions never accept right-to-work without very contentious fights.
Unions, in fact, just lost (as they usually do in these cases) after challenging Indiana’s right-to-work law – passed in 2012 – all the way to the Hoosier State’s Supreme Court. If they were that determined with statewide right-to-work legislation – which has passed in 25 states – how much more determined will they be to stop an innovative and new idea such as local ordinances? (Note: the unions lost the Indiana Supreme Court decision, as they usually do when challenging right-to-work laws.)
If the labor unions lose the Louisville decision, which likely will be released in June, don’t think that they will not be right back in July in an attempt to intimidate more Kentucky county-court magistrates and judge-executives from moving forward with right-to-work policies … and the economic-development opportunities they already are proving to offer in Kentucky counties.
Keep updated here on Kentucky’s local right-to-work campaign.