Kentucky's not exactly a union state, far from it. But it's not a "right to work" state either, what Republicans gleefully should call "right to destroy what few unions are left here" There's still not enough support for a statewide right to fire people law here, but several counties are trying to make it a local issue, including the counties that border Cincinnati on the Ohio, where I live.
The state legislature has debated the issue for years and remains sharply divided along party lines. Now, an increasing number of Kentucky counties are acting on their own: Half a dozen have enacted local right-to-work laws, and at least a dozen more are considering them.
Kenton County held a first reading of its ordinance last week and is expected to enact it March 10. Boone County's will come up for a vote on March 17. Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery said the issue could come up "relatively soon" there.
The ordinances would not affect existing labor contracts, nor public employees' unions.
All three counties are controlled by Republicans, who generally view the right-to-work issue as an economic development one. Many Democrats, however, view it as a union-busting move, and local labor unions have vowed to oppose the ordinances.
"We've heard for some time through Tri-ED that not being a right-to-work state costs us opportunities," said Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore. "Now that there appears to be the ability for passing right-to-work on county basis, we want to take a serious look at it."
Knochelmann said he isn't sure how many Kenton Countians are unionized, but "I don't know that it really matters – if it's one or if it's 50,000, we are not getting the opportunities for businesses to locate in Northern Kentucky in particular – or the state as whole – because we're not right-to-work."
Think about that. The argument is that union busting, making sure that workers get paid as little as possible, low enough that they have to rely on federal aid, is good for Northern Kentucky. This is the chief argument: a job that pays a lousy wage is better than no job at all. Specific employers won't bring jobs here unless they have the right to bankrupt unions. Are those employers you would want to work for?
But is it? More importantly, do Kentucky counties have the right to enact these union-busting laws on a county-by-county basis?
We're going to see, and expect these laws to be tied up for years in the courts.