Kentucky county to appeal federal ruling striking right-to-work law

LOUISVILLE, Ky. Officials for a Kentucky county will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that invalidated its right-to-work law, the county’s lawyer said on Thursday.

The ruling came a year after labor organizations sued Hardin County after it passed an ordinance that prohibited unions from mandating its members pay dues in exchange for representation.

So-called “right-to-work” laws allow employees at unionized employers to skip joining a union and avoid paying union dues.

U.S. District Judge David Hale ruled on Wednesday evening that local regulation of union agreements is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act.

Hale’s order means that only states can implement such legislation. Democrats, who hold a majority in the state House of Representatives, have blocked repeated bills aiming to make Kentucky the 26th right-to-work state.

“These illegal ordinances would have affected all working people, union and non-union, by decreasing wages, lowering median household incomes, increasing poverty and undermining workplace safety,” said Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan.

Beginning in late 2014, several Kentucky counties began passing their own laws after advocates claimed Kentucky law granted counties the same abilities as the state. Proponents of right-to-work laws say they can be a tool to attract new businesses.

The ruling affects only Hardin County in north-central Kentucky, one of 12 to have passed a right-to-work law. Four others have passed a first reading.

Jim Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute, said about 80 of Kentucky’s 120 counties had considered passing a right-to-work law but were waiting for Hale’s decision.

John Lovett, a lawyer representing Hardin County, said the case pits the interests of local communities against the nation’s most powerful labor unions.

“Few issues are more ‘local’ than what a working person is free to do with his or her own money,” Lovett said.

(Reporting by Steve Bittenbender; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Dan Grebler)

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