Bevin administration looks to have right-to-work lawsuit tossed

06/24/2017 03:45 PM

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration is asking Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate to throw out a union lawsuit challenging the state’s new right-to-work law.

Bevin’s general counsel, Stephen Pitt, filed the motion in Franklin Circuit Court Friday.

In it, he argues that the state’s right-to-work law is completely legal and that the AFL-CIO’s and Teamsters Local 89’s claims in the lawsuit, filed in May, are unfounded.

The new law bars unions from collecting dues from non-members, and labor organizations say in the lawsuit that it deprives them of property and violates equal protection, arbitrary action and special legislation provisions on the Kentucky Constitution.

But Pitt argues that unions don’t have to represent non-members in collective bargaining and that the law applies to all Kentuckians, not different classifications.

“A union’s authority to bargain for non-members is not a burden,” Pitt wrote in the dismissal motion. “To the contrary, the ability to represent all employees in a unit, both dues-paying members and otherwise, greatly increases a union’s leverage to bargain with an employer. Furthermore, this does not make bargaining more expensive for a union, which will likely spend similar resources bargaining with an employer irrespective of whether it speaks only for its members or for all employees of an employer.”

Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper noted that employers like Braidy Industries, which announced plans to locate a $1.3 billion aluminum plant in Greenup County in April, have invested in the state thanks to the newly enacted right-to-work law, which passed in the first week of this year’s legislative session.

“What purpose does this lawsuit serve, except to hurt working families that are depending on these jobs?” Stamper said in a statement. “This ridiculous legal action by the AFL-CIO and Teamsters will not quell the momentum building across the state. Kentucky is winning, and this will not slow us down.”

Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan said he’s not surprised at Bevin’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and that he’s looking forward to his day in court.

Londrigan noted that West Virginia courts have temporarily halted that state’s implementation of right-to-work, and he said such laws are only meant to weaken organized labor.

“It’s interesting that he (Bevin) makes these claims about right-to-work and economic development but really ignores the fundamental constitutional issues that we based our suit on and we based our claim on regarding equal protection, unjustified takings and other elements of the Constitution,” Londrigan said in a phone interview with Pure Politics.

“We’ve got decades of data, surveys and experience that show otherwise, and what it really does prove is that right-to-work is about attracting companies that harbor anti-union animus as well as having a complete lack of reality since right-to-work doesn’t stop us from organizing unions in places in Kentucky even after passage of right-to-work,” he added.

Londrigan said he expects Wingate will rule against Bevin’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

Labor groups lost a previous challenge to local right-to-work ordinances in federal court, with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately ruling such ordinances legal in November.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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