A Kentucky District Court judge ruled in favor of a union’s lawsuit Wednesday in a decision that closes the door on individual counties adopting their own right-to-work laws.
Judge David Hale made the decision after almost six months of consideration. Warren became the first county in the entire country to enact the policy independently back in December 2014. The union lawsuit, however, asserted that only states can adopt right-to-work laws under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
“The primary question presented by this lawsuit is whether a right-to-work law may be enacted solely by a state,” stated the decision, which was obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Because the Court finds that local regulation of union-security agreements is preempted by the NLRA, the right-to-work ordinance at issue here is invalid.”
Several more counties followed Warren, all seeking to enact the policy. The unions filed their lawsuit January 2015 against Hardin County with the ultimate goal of stopping the county-level push altogether. Americans for Prosperity Kentucky Director Julia Crigler denounced the decision on the basis that the state has what is known as a home-rule statute. The rule allows localities to pass their won economic policies so long as they don’t interfere with existing state law.
“Kentucky’s home-rule provision empowers counties to pass ordinances to secure and improve their economic development,” Crigler said in a statement to TheDCNF. “We believe that right-to-work is a necessary and legally-sound policy for counties to take responsibility for their own economic success by providing employees freedom in the workplace.”
Americans for Prosperity was among several groups advocating for the localized push. It made a $50,000 grant last year to the legal defense fund ProtectMyPaycheck to help right-to-work counties fight against any lawsuits. The county level push gave hope to supporters who doubted it could pass statewide because of Democrats in the legislature.
“We don’t have the numbers in the House,” Jim DeCesare, a Republican in the state legislature, told TheDCNF before the decision. “We have the governor, we have the Senate, we just need the House.”
DeCesare sees the policy as a potentially huge benefit for the state whether it passes locally or statewide. He notes it doesn’t just provide workers a choice but also attracts businesses. Critics of the policy say reining in union power will hurt workers because unions are necessary for workplace fairness, better wages and benefits.
“I would like to see this become a state law,” DeCesare continued. “We want them to know the whole state is open for business.”
DeCesare doesn’t see the policy moving ahead this year within the state legislature. He does note, though, that it will likely become a top priority next year if Republicans can secure both legislative bodies during the upcoming election. Newly elected Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has already been a big advocate for the policy.
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