Kentucky Democrats successfully maintained control of the state house last November, effectively dashing Republican lawmakers’ goal of passing right-to-work-for-less legislation.
But that hasn’t stopped right-to-work advocates from trying to push the legislation on the Bluegrass State by other means.
So far, three counties have approved local right-to-work ordinances.
Leading these efforts is the American City County Exchange, an offshoot of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an ultraconservative think tank that churns out model anti-worker legislation for state lawmakers across the country.
The idea of pushing local right-to-work bills was hatched an August meetings of anti-union groups in Washington, D.C.
As Moshe Marvit at the Nation reports:
’The possibilities of rolling out a local RTW [campaign] in a non-RTW state deserves a full-court press by those of us who care about free market economics and allowing communities to make the best decisions for their people,” declared [ACCE director] Jon Russell, a baby-faced partisan of the right who was sandwiched between Andrew Kloster of the Heritage Foundation and Patrick Gleason of Americans for Tax Reform. Flanking them were James Sherk, also of the Heritage Foundation, and William Messenger, the attorney from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation who argued Harris v. Quinn last year before the Supreme Court.
Right-to-work laws weaken workers’ ability to collectively bargain by making it harder for unions to collect dues, driving down wages and benefits. The average worker in a right-to-work state makes $1,500 less a year than their counterparts in union-friendly states.
Employees in pro-worker states are also more likely to have job-based health benefits.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers has shown interest in passing local right-to-work laws, sending a letter to the state attorney general earlier this fall inquiring about the legality of county lawmakers passing their own labor laws.
Critics say the move is patently illegal. As the Marvit reports:
When asked by The Nation whether [former National Labor Relations Board chair Wilma Liebman] believes that the National Labor Relations Act permits this reading, she replied, ‘No. And it’s not even a close question.’ She read aloud the relevant provision of the act to me, paused, and then explained, ‘Section 14(b) is clear. It says ‘state or territory.’ That means no local or municipal ordinances.”
Section 14(b) amended the original NLRA by allowing states or terriorites to go right-to-work under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.
Former Bowling Green Mayor and UAW leader Eldon Renaud told the Bowling Green Daily News that Warren County’s ordinance (the first one passed in the state) is against state law and that right-to-work legislation would require a vote from the legislature.
“It’s pretty absurd what they’re trying to do,” he said.
Photo: Bruce Leibowitz