The first of February U.S. District Judge David Hale ruled against counties passing their own right-to-work ordinances saying those decisions are left up to the states not local governments. In February 2015, the Logan County Fiscal Court joined with a handful of other counties in Kentucky passing a right-to-work ordinance. It was a unanimous vote, one which was made to try to stay economically competitive. It is said a right-to-work ordinance draws industry.
A right-to-work law is a statute in the United States that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees’ membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring.
Right-to-work laws do not aim to provide general guarantee of employment to people seeking work, but rather are a government regulation of the contractual agreements between employers and labor unions that prevents them from excluding non-union workers, or requiring employees to pay a fee to unions that have negotiated the labor contract all the employees work under.
However, the unions believe the right-to-work initiative will hurt the unions who have been responsible for protecting the workers interests for decades. According to the National Workrights Institute, who opposes right-to-work laws, the title itself is misleading and that right-to-work laws do not create a right to work, nor do they protect workers from being fired for unjust reasons. The Institute and some believe that right-to-work laws actually allow workers in union shops to accept the benefits of unionizing without paying their share of the costs.
“The states around us in which we compete for industry have already become right-to-work,” said Logan County Judge-Executive Logan Chick. “When it comes to locating, industry will most likely go to a state that is right-to-work. I’ve heard it myself from those in industry. By passing an ordinance and attempting to become a right-to-work county, it sends a message along with the counties around us that if someone is looking to move here, we are business friendly. We’ve just got to be part of it to stay competitive economically.”
A great deal of states surrounding Kentucky have already become right-to-work. Logan County and 11 other counties in Kentucky felt it imperative Kentucky follow suit. The county governments began taking matters into their own hands feeling they would be left behind if something wasn’t done. However, some in the state including the Attorney General believed counties didn’t have thee authority to do it.
Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken believed counties could pass such ordinances. It was her opinion the Kentucky General Assembly has given that right to them under the “Home Rule” Act.
The Kentucky Home Rule Act, first enacted in 1972 and amended numerous times thereafter, amounts to a broad delegation of state authority to Kentucky Counties. Counties are authorized to enact ordinances, issue regulations, levy taxes, issue bonds, appropriate funds, and employ personnel in performance of numerous articulated functions, said attorney Joseph E. Lambert, who also rendered his opinion on the issue.
Now that a federal judge has ruled against counties having the authority to pass such an ordinance, Logan County must sit with others and wait until the case if finally decided.
“The right-to-work was ruled down, but I’m sure it will be appealed,” said Logan County Attorney Joe Ross. “But until it is settled and has gone through the legal process, Logan County’s right-to-work decision will not be enforceable.”
To contact Chris Cooper, email [email protected] or call 270-726-8394.