After many counties in the state passed local right-to-work ordinances to allow workers to choose whether or not they want to be a member of a union in the absence of a statewide law, a federal judge in Louisville heard arguments of proponents and the labor unions challenging the local provision Tuesday.
More than a dozen Kentucky counties have passed right to work ordinances since Warren County was the first to take up the issue in December. The recent passage of the local ordinances comes as the issue remains a political football in the state legislature, stopping legislation from being passed again in the 2015 session.
The local laws have prompted union groups to file a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Hardin County right to work measure.
Following an hour-long hearing at the federal courthouse in Louisville on Tuesday, District Judge David Hale will decide whether Hardin County had the power to pass a right to work ordinance.
Irwin Cutler, a Louisville attorney representing the labor unions, argued Tuesday that the passage of right to work at the county level will cause confusion in the state and disrupt uniformity as there is currently no statewide law.
But currently in the state, not all businesses are unionized but rather have the right to choose whether or not they want to be a closed shop. Because of this fact, John Lovett, an attorney representing Hardin County, pointed out Kentucky already has many different rules governing employment contracts and said the local laws would not cause confusion.
Both sides also used previous cases dealing with the way “political subdivisions” of a state, like a county, are viewed in similar cases as well as ones dealing with the rights of labor unions. Judge Hale noted he has already read over the briefs submitted by each side of the case and that Tuesday’s hearing served as a way to clear up any questions before a decision is made.
The Chamber has long supported right-to-work legislation to allow workers to choose whether or not they want to be a member of a union and believes the measures help the state become more competitive and attracts businesses.
The Kentucky Chamber’s full position on right to work can be found on page 8 of the 2015 Legislative Agenda.