After right-to-work supporters were deemed everything from “racists” to “corporatists” to “union busters,” the Hardin County Fiscal Court voted 8-1 on Tuesday to pass the final reading of a right-to-work ordinance first approved on Dec. 23.
The vote means Hardin County joins Warren, Simpson, Fulton and Todd as Kentucky’s right-to-work counties. Cumberland County Fiscal Court, which recently passed the first reading of a similar ordinance, is expected to finalize its own right-to-work policy on Feb. 10. The Pulaski County Fiscal Court on Tuesday held its first reading on a right-to-work ordinance, but did not vote. (While fiscal courts usually do vote on first readings, a vote is only required on a second reading.)
Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters thanked the magistrates for their political courage and fielded several questions about right-to-work policy and how it would pertain to the central Kentucky county – one of the fastest growing areas in the commonwealth.
Louisville attorney Jason Nemes, who is working with Protect My Check – a 501c4 organization established to help counties fight potential lawsuits over these newly passed local right-to-work laws – pointed out that Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway, who has filed to run for governor, didn’t even mention in his opinion the state law that allows counties to pursue such economic-development measures.
A hidden highlight discovered in Kentucky law is called the “County Home Rule” passed by the General Assembly in 1978 that:
- Delegates to county fiscal courts the legislature’s authority to promote economic development and regulate commerce
- Allows county fiscal courts to approve policies not expressly prohibited by the legislature
Nemes noted that in contrast to Conway’s opinion, several legal experts have issued opinions supporting the right of counties to pass right-to-work laws, including former Kentucky Supreme Court justices Joseph Lambert and Will Graves.
“One Republican and one Democrat – but both agree: it can be done,” Nemes said.
A recent Bluegrass Beacon column explains:
The law described in KRS 67.083 contains language providing local county governments “with the necessary latitude and flexibility to provide and finance various governmental services” within certain areas, including the “regulation of commerce for the protection and convenience of the public;” and “promotion of economic development of the county, directly or in cooperation with public or private agencies.”
Right-to-work fits the “County Home Rule” like the Wildcats fit in Rupp Arena. It protects workers from losing their jobs for refusing to become members of labor unions or pay dues while also serving as a county’s very own “open for business” sign in a state that’s generally not.
AFL-CIO boss Bill Londrigan told the court that right-to-work policies rank low on the list of features important to site selectors who advise companies planning to expand or relocate.
However, in this Bluegrass Institute video on right-to-work, you will find the following statement from James Medbery, senior vice president of Binswanger Company, a much sought-after site selection consultant whose territory includes Kentucky:
By being non-right-to-work, Kentucky automatically misses up to at least 25 percent of all heavy employment economic-development projects looking in the region. Companies cross the state off the list without giving it another thought.
Simpson County on Dec. 30 became the commonwealth’s – and country’s — second county to pass the final reading of a right-to-work ordinance.
“For me, this is simply an economic development issue,” Simpson County Judge-Executive Jim Henderson said.
Henderson’s county borders Tennessee and lives perpetually with the economic reality of frequently losing out on economic development opportunities to counties in the right-to-work Volunteer State.
Dennis Griffin, executive director of the Franklin-Simpson Industrial Authority, said that he sees right-to-work as benefiting rural areas that maybe haven’t had the success that urban areas have had in attracting economic growth.
“In the past few years, Kentucky has done well in economic development, particularly in the three major urban areas of the state,” Griffin said. “I believe a right-to-work law in Kentucky would be extremely helpful to the smaller, more rural counties to compete for industrial projects – especially those counties along the Tennessee border.”
The large union contingent that showed up Tuesday to show opposition against a right-to-work policy in Hardin County responded with boos and catcalls when Waters suggested that right-to-work policies actually has benefited union membership in other states.
The five states where union membership grew the fastest in 2013 were all right-to-work states, including Tennessee, where union membership grew by 31,000, or 25 percent, in one year.
Londrigan disputed the claim but never offered any factual evidence to counter those numbers.