Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law Saturday, Jan. 7 legislation that will allow workers to refuse to pay union dues, a victory for Republicans who control the state government for the first time in nearly a century. Bevin joined both the state’s House and Senate who passed HB-1 making it illegal for workers to have to join a labor union or pay dues to keep a job.
“This legislation will mean incredible new opportunities for Kentucky, and it has been a long time in coming,” said Gov. Bevin. “This is not a piece of legislation that came easily. It did not come without a lot of contention. It did not come without a tremendous amount of passion and very intentional and very sincere passion on both sides of this issue. But we are the last state in the entire south to have pass right to work legislation. The last state in the entire manufacturing belt of America to have passed this legislation. This will mean incredible new opportunities for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This will mean incredible opportunities for the attraction of economic development and business for the creation of jobs. This has been a long time coming. I’m grateful to those members of the Senate and House who have made this possible. I’m grateful to you the voters of Kentucky who have allowed the people you have sent here to be empowered to do what is in our best economic interest.”
The House passed HB-1 Thursday, Jan. 5 with the Senate following on Saturday, Jan. 7 by a 25-12 vote in favor of the bill. This makes Kentucky the 27th U.S. state to allow workers the right to work in union-represented shops and receive union benefits without having to pay dues.
Right to Work 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.
Mark Mix, President of the 2.8 million-member National Right to Work Committee, issued the following statement regarding the recent Kentucky House and Senate passage of the Right to Work Bill:
“This is a great day for the hardworking men and women of the Bluegrass State as the House and Senate have now passed the Kentucky Right to Work Bill.
Thanks are due especially to Governor Bevin, Speaker Hoover, Chairman DeCesare, Senate President Stivers, Majority Leader Thayer, Chairman Bowen and the thousands of National Right to Work Committee members and identified supporters across Kentucky who’ve, again and again, contacted their legislators.
This is the culmination of a long, hard-fought battle to end compulsory unionism in the Bluegrass State and make Kentucky America’s 27th Right to Work state.
After a years-long struggle involving tens of thousands of mobilized Kentuckians, citizens of the Bluegrass State will finally be able to enjoy all the benefits of a Right to Work law.
The Kentucky Right to Work law will free tens of thousands of Kentucky workers who have been forced to pay tribute to a union boss just for the privilege of getting and keeping a job so they can provide for their families. The law will also provide a much needed economic boost for Kentucky.
As legislators in states like New Hampshire and Missouri eye passing Right to Work laws for their states, I would encourage them to follow Kentucky’s lead.
Right to Work laws simply restore the ability of workers to decide for themselves whether union membership is right for them, reaffirming the right of every worker to voluntarily join a union and protecting each individuals’ right to be employed without being forced to join or pay dues or fees to a union boss for the privilege.
With the benefits to personal liberty and economic prosperity that go along with Right to Work, and numerous studies demonstrating broad support for Right to Work among voters in state after state, including Missouri and New Hampshire, the issue is unlikely to go away in state capitols until politicians put an end to Big Labor’s coercive forced unionism privileges once and for all. And as recent history demonstrates, politicians will either realize that or pay a price at the polls.”
The adoption of a Kentucky Right to Work law would make Kentucky the fifth state in the past five years to outlaw forced unionism. Indiana (2012), Michigan (2013), Wisconsin (2015), and West Virginia (2016) have all recently passed Right to Work laws.
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. However, 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.
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 this bill, it sends a message to those who are looking to do business in Kentucky, we are business friendly. We’ve just got to be part of it to stay competitive economically.”
The National Right to Work Committee, established in 1955, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, single-purpose citizens’ organization dedicated to the principle that all Americans must have the right to join a union if they choose to, but none should ever be forced to affiliate with a union in order to get or keep a job. Its web address is www.nrtwc.org.
To contact Chris Cooper, email [email protected] or call 270-726-8394.