Republican Kentucky Governor-Elect Matt Bevin starts his first term Tuesday and already right-to-work supporters are ushering in his administration as a huge victory for worker choice.
Right-to-work has passed in 25 states. The law bans mandatory union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Kentucky is a unique right-to-work battleground state for several reason. While it has a statewide fight like the others, counties are also going ahead with their own measures. The policy has traditionally been a state issue.
“The focus has always been a statewide issue, its just a matter of how we get there,” Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters tells The Daily Caller News Foundation. “But with a gridlock legislature, the local counties, the fiscal courts, were getting frustrated.”
The libertarian Bluegrass Institute plays a critical role in the current policy debate. Prior to Bevin winning, there was very little supporters of the policy were able to do. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear could easily veto any right-to-work proposal. Unwilling to wait, some counties began last year taking the issue into their own hands.
“In his election platform, it was at the top of the list,” Waters continues. “I think its going to happen faster now with a new and friendly administration.”
At the moment 12 counties have enacted the policy. An additional four counties are close. Bevin is the first Republican governor in the state since 2007. He was able to beat Democratic Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. Bevin looks likely to make the policy
an early priority.
“Its very likely Kentucky will be the 26th right-to-work state,” Water notes. “This isn’t just political, this is about real jobs we aren’t getting.”
Other states like West Virgina are also debating the policy. The next state will be historic because it will mean for the first time the majority of states are right-to-work. The policy is often supported by Republicans and opposed by Democrats. The problem is, even with a Republican governor and state Senate, the House is still Democrat. Brent Yessin, executive director of ProtectMyPayCheck, argues the focus should remain on the counties.
“I can’t see a strategy for getting it through the legislature because the speaker is dead set against it,” Yessin tells TheDCNF. “We’re still chipping away locally.”
Critics of the policy often claim unions
are necessary for workplace fairness, better wages and benefits. Laws, therefore, should make it easier for workers to join and for unions to organize. Supporters, however, assert it simply provides workers a choice while promoting a business friendly environment. State Director of Americans for Prosperity Julia Crigler notes the policy is very important economically.
“As Kentucky tries to compete with neighboring states to grow its economy,” Crigler tells TheDCNF. “Right-to-work is an effective tool with support across party lines that will provide workers with choices in the workplace, while encouraging investment in our state.”
Americans for Prosperity has helped to advocate for the policy on both the state and county level. Greg Mourad, vice president of legislation at the National Right to Work Committee, notes the election results show state residents wants right-to-work and state politicians should take notice.
“When Kentucky voters chose a pro-Right to Work governor a few weeks ago, they sent a clear message,” Mourad says in a statement to TheDCNF. “Voters clearly understand that it’s wrong to force Kentucky workers to pay tribute to union bosses just for the privilege of earning a living. Many workers in Kentucky still face economic hardship and they recognize that a Right to Work law would bring a much needed boost to Kentucky’s economy.”
Several unions have sued, arguing counties are not allowed to enact their own right-to-work laws. The lawsuit, though focused on Hardin county, ultimately seeks to set a precedent
that dismantles the ordinances in any and all other counties. The lawsuit was filed back in January. According to the United Automobile Workers and the eight other unions involved, the policy violates federal law under the National Labor Relations Act. They say only states can decide whether they want to enact such a policy.
It is also not completely true that unions keep safety standards up. The labor movement did indeed help historically to bring fundamental workplace protections. Today, many such protections are provided
or required by the government.
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