Panicking unions throw a lawsuit at right-to-work push in Kentucky

Panicking unions throw a lawsuit at right-to-work push in Kentucky

Labor groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop the spread of right-to-work counties in Kentucky.

For the past month, local advocates with help from My Check My Choice have successfully brought right-to-work laws to several counties in Kentucky. Now, some labor groups are coming together to stop the initiative with a lawsuit.

My Check My Choice advocates for laws that would prevent union membership as a condition of employment by working on the local level as opposed to state or federal.

The lawsuit challenges the most recent right-to-work county ordinance, which was enacted by the Fiscal Court of Hardin County on Tuesday. The challenge if upheld by the court could pose a huge problem for the other right-to-work counties within the state.

The labor groups bringing forth the lawsuit include the United Autoworkers, the United Food and Commercial Workers, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

In court documents obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation, the UAW argues:

This lawsuit challenges Ordinance Number 300, Series 2014, enacted by the Fiscal Court of Hardin County on January 13, 2015 (“Ordinance 300”) on the ground that the Ordinance is preempted and prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (‘NLRA”) and amended by the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947.

UAW argues that the NLRA, “authorizes a State or Territory to enact laws prohibiting the execution or application within the State of union security agreements that are otherwise authorized and regulated by the NLRA.”

They add, “Hardin County is not a ‘State or Territory’ as contemplated in the NLRA…and is therefore not authorized to enact a law prohibiting execution or application of the union security agreement.”

Some have argued that the local right-to-work initiative is bound to eventually fail because a similar effort didn’t survive legal scrutiny back in 1965.

“In recent months 20 or 30 little towns in Kentucky have been induced to pass ‘right-to-work’ ordinances, and there, too, the representation has been made that these ordinances will attract industry,” George Meany said before the House Committee on Education and Labor in 1965.

At the time Meany was the president of the AFL-CIO.

“Not only are states being urged to compete with each other for industry by depressing labor standards, but little towns in the same state are urged to do the same,” Meany also noted.

“The ‘right-to-work’ advocates never seem to wonder why —if workers want this kind of ‘liberation,’” Meany argued. “These ‘right-to-work’ laws have won the most acceptance where union membership is smallest. And they seem to pay no attention to the rights and interests and wishes of the majority.”

However, advocates argue that the 1965 case and other earlier cases that ended local right-to-work initiatives don’t apply because of legal changes that have been made in the meantime. Specifically, advocates point to the County Home Rule Statute which the General Assembly passed in 1972. The statute delegates broad authority to local governments to pass a wide array of laws within their geographical boundaries.

“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,” Chief Justice Lambert (ret) and Justice Graves (ret) said in a letter to Judge Michael O. Buchanon after Warren County passed a right-to-work ordinance.

Back in December, Warren County became the first right-to-work county in the entire country.

The letter, which was obtained by TheDCNF, argues:

Counties are authorized to enact ordinances, issue regulations, levy taxes, issue bonds, appropriate funds, and employ personnel in performance of numerous articulated functions. At least two of the identified functions authorize county right to work ordinances.

As such, enactment of a right to work ordinances by the legislative body of a county seems to be well within the legal authority of the county government.

The law firm English Lucas Priest and Owsley agreed, noting in a letter obtained by TheDCNF:

We concur with the County Attorney’s opinion that state law vest Warren County with the authority to enact an ordinance regulating union-security agreements. While recognizing that there is some conflicting legal authority, we further concur with the County Attorney that a county ordinance regulating union-security agreements should not be preempted by federal law.

Judge David J. Hale is assigned to the case.

This report, by Connor D. Wolf, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

LU Staff

LU Staff

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