High court’s right-to-work ruling an early Christmas gift

Published 4:00 pm Friday, November 23, 2018


Guest columnist

If, as critics claim, right-to-work doesn’t matter, why have Kentucky’s union bosses spent gobs of their organizations’ dollars filing lawsuits designed to halt or overturn the practice of allowing workers to choose their own path regarding union membership and payment of dues without threat of being fired?

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Except for a ruling in early 2016 in liberal Louisville by U.S. District Judge David Hale, an Obama appointee, who took six months after hearing the case to rule against Hardin County Fiscal Court – one of 13 statewide to pass a local right-to-work ordinance – union bosses have failed in subsequent legal attempts to force employees to pay union dues at companies with collective bargaining agreements.

They even lost the legal challenge to Hale’s ruling when his shoddy and tardy decision was reversed by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Hardin County’s ordinance and, by extension, local right-to-work policies statewide.

The most recent blow for unions in this matter came on Nov. 15 when the state Supreme Court upheld Kentucky’s right-to-work law passed during the first week of the 2017 session of the General Assembly after Republicans, who made the issue a central tenet of their campaigns, took power at the state House for the first time in nearly a century.

The tightness of the 4-3 vote piques my curiosity about how any justice on the commonwealth’s highest court can possibly hold that it’s constitutional to endorse a policy allowing workers to lose their jobs just because they don’t believe paying union dues benefit them and their families as much as holding on to their own hard-earned money.

In many cases, workers don’t want to pay dues when most labor unions most of the money they collect to fund leftist political candidates and controversial social causes.

Federal filings indicate that in 2013, the year previous to the Warren County Fiscal Court passing its own local right-to-work ordinance, United Auto Workers Local 2164, which represents workers at the General Motors Corvette Plant in Bowling Green, spent just 2 percent of its entire $560,000 budget on representing its dues-paying members.

Opensecrets.org reports that the AFL-CIO contributed more than $8 million in 2014 to political candidates and spent $5 million championing particular social causes like the controversial pro-abortion Planned Parenthood organization.

So how is it that three justices – Michelle Keller, Bill Cunningham and Samuel Wright III – could render decisions in favor of undoing these protections for workers, especially after this policy was enacted following a full and vigorous debate both on the campaign trail and the House floor?

Perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at these anti-right-to-work justices, who are elected to eight-year terms, the next time their name pops up on the ballot.

Voters overwhelmingly spoke in favor of individual labor freedom first in 2016, when they elected that slew of right-to-work candidates to the House, and then again this year when they – thankfully – refused to return longtime opponents of the policy to the legislature, including Democrats Brent Yonts of Greenville and Linda Belcher, a retired educator and consistently cranky opponent of free-market policies during her previous tenure in the House. 

The justices who voted to uphold Kentucky’s right-to-work law duly passed by the legislature – Laurance VanMeter, Daniel Venters, Deputy Chief Justice Lisabeth Hughes and Chief Justice John Minton – deserve our thanks for an early Christmas gift that both protects individual employees’ freedoms and a law that signals Kentucky is open for business perhaps more than any policy passed during the modern era.

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.