FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – A sharply divided Kentucky Supreme Court narrowly upheld Right to Work legislation Thursday that was passed by the 2017 General Assembly.
In 2017, lawmakers passed Right to Work legislation during the first week of the General Assembly. The bill revised Kentucky law to prevent workers from having to join labor unions or pay dues, as a condition of employment.
Although similar bills were introduced every year since 2000, it wasn’t until Republicans won both chambers in 2016 that efforts to pass Right to Work legislation were successful.
Supporters tout Right to Work as an economic development tool and, in fact, Braidy Industries, which is building a large aluminum plant in Ashland, said enactment of the legislation was a major factor in the decision to come to Kentucky.
Shortly after it was approved, Fred Zuckerman, President of Teamsters Local 89, and William Londrigan, President of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, filed a lawsuit at Franklin Circuit challenging the legislation, with Gov. Matt Bevin and then-Labor Cabinet Secretary Derrick Ramsey named as defendants.
Upon a motion by the defendants, Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate dismissed the case, and the Supreme Court agreed to accept a direct transfer of the appeal, bypassing the Court of Appeals. Oral arguments were heard on Aug. 10.
The unions argued the bill violated the Kentucky Constitution in four ways: Equal protection; special legislation, meaning it was for the benefit of the few to the detriment of most people; taking for public purpose without just compensation; and emergency legislation, that there was no emergency present requiring the bill to take effect as soon as it was signed by the Governor.
In a 4-3 decision, the High Court held the bill did not violate either the Kentucky or U. S. Constitutions and upheld the Franklin Circuit Court decision.