Americans For Prosperity’s (AFP) Kentucky chapter is continuing the prolonged legislative fight to bring right to work to the Bluegrass State. Kentucky is something of an anomaly concerning politics. It’s one of the last southern states with a Democratic governor and a Democratic-controlled chamber of the legislature. Hence, why Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) hopes for changing the state law that prohibits a candidate from running for two federal offices in the same year were dashed in 2014. Democrats held onto the State House in the elections. Additionally, it’s another reason why right to work legislation has stalled in Frankfort, despite it being a popular legislative initiative. Hence, why the battle has shifted from battling for a state law to passing local right to work ordinances at the county level.
In total, twelve counties have passed such measures, several of them dotting the Tennessee border, where right to work is law. This is being done to spur economic development and jobs growth. State Democrats, including Attorney General and 2015 gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway, and Kentucky’s AFL-CIO chapter, have alleged that such laws are not legal, stating that only the state legislature can authorize right to work. Labor unions have filed lawsuits as well. Yet, as I mentioned in a previous post, two former Kentucky Supreme Court Justices said the laws were legal, given that local governments were granted exceptional latitude on bills relating to economic development in the 1970s.
Nevertheless, labor unions have filed suit against some these right to work Kentucky counties, and AFP declared that they’re contributing $50,000 to a legal fund, ProtectMyPayCheck.org, to help these counties fight back against this legal onslaught.
"Our chapter has committed significant resources to ensure that Kentuckians have choice in the workplace, we believe we should also support the local governments that are standing up for worker freedom and creating a more prosperous Kentucky by passing right-to-work ordinances," said Julia Crigler, state director of Americans for Prosperity Kentucky in yesterday’s press release.
“Kentucky Fiscal courts are protecting the freedom of our families and ensuring that the Bluegrass state is a place of opportunity for all, which makes us proud to support the work of ProtectMyPaycheck in defending their efforts."
“Americans for Prosperity has been instrumental in connecting Kentuckians to policymakers on the need for worker freedom; we appreciate their gift to aid the defense of these counties who protect the rights of working families, allowing them to keep hundreds of dollars a year they are now forced to pay to just keep their jobs," said Brent Yessin, executive director of ProtectMyPayCheck.org.
"These fiscal courts have stood up to union bosses to bring jobs to their neighbors, and together they have already protected more than 500,000 Kentuckians and gotten communities on site selection lists for thousands of jobs. Together with the support of local business leaders, Americans for Prosperity's donation allows us to fight the unions' attempt to roll back those freedoms, and jeopardize those jobs with their lawsuit."
This local experiment seems to have been exported to Illinois, where Gov. Bruce Rauner liked the idea of letting localities create right to work zones. In May, a right to work bill failed miserably in Springfield with zero "yes" votes. So, for all intents and purposes, further discussion on right to work in deep blue Illinois is dead, though the looming government shutdown is a more pressing matter.
Regardless, right to work is popular with Kentucky voters, garnering 58 percent approval. In a state that’s more receptive to such legislation, it’s more of a question of “when” than “if,” but first we have to see how the courts decide on these lawsuits.