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Should Counties Be Able To Ban Forced Union Dues?

Supporters held a panel Monday in Kentucky to support the new wave of counties deciding for themselves whether to be right-to-work.

It started back in December, when Warren County in Kentucky voted to adopt a right-to-work ordinance, making it the first in the country. The policy, which has passed in 25 states, has traditionally been seen as a state or federal issue – not local. The Center for Worker Freedom (CWF), a project of Americans for Tax Reform, helped organize the panel at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green to support the new wave of local right-to-work counties in the state.

“So workers and community leaders can have an informed discussion about the benefits or right-to-work,” CWF said in a press release. “Local right-to-work ordinances passed by 12 Kentucky counties this year have stirred debate among candidates for Governor on both sides of the aisle.”

After Warren passed its own version of the law, which bans mandatory union dues or fees as a condition of employment, several more Kentucky counties, including Fulton, Hardin, Simpson and Todd, did as well. The move also gained support from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, who is advocating for localities in his own state to adopt the policy.

CWF notes the policy is likely to become a prominent issue going into the upcoming governor race with candidates already picking sides.

“Republican candidates Matt Bevin, James Comer, Jr., and Hal Heiner have voiced their support for right-to-work,” the press release noted. “Meanwhile, the Democratic contender, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, opposes local right-to-work, publically endorsing Big Labor’s legal challenges to counties who have passed such ordinances.”

At the center of the debate is a union backed lawsuit against Hardin County over becoming right-to-work. According to the United Automobile Workers and eight other unions that filed the lawsuit, the county right-to-work ordinance violated federal law under the National Labor Relations Act. Supporters however argue counties are within their rights to enact their own right-to-work laws because Kentucky has a “Home Rule” policy.

The Home Rule policy simply means the state government allows localities like cities and counties to adopt their own economic development laws so long as the laws don’t interfere with existing state law.

A ruling by the court is expected sometime this summer.

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