FRANKFORT, KY (CNHI) - Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit by labor groups challenging the constitutionality of Kentucky's right-to-work law, passed in the opening days of the 2017 General Assembly.
The Kentucky State AFL-CIO and Teamsters Local 89 who brought the suit said they will "promptly appeal" the ruling.
Gov. Matt Bevin who championed the law and credits its passage for the location of a major aluminum rolling mill near Ashland hailed the ruling.
"The court's ruling confirmed what we already knew: Kentucky"s right-to-work law rests on a sound legal bedrock and is an essential economic driver for our state, bringing unprecedented job growth and a record $9.2 billion in corporate investment in 2017," Bevin said in a statement released after Wingate's ruling.
Kentucky is now one of 28 states with such laws which prohibit compulsory union membership or payment of union dues in businesses or industries with collective bargaining units.
The labor groups argued the law is discriminatory, singling out unions while chambers of commerce and various licensing and trade groups also require dues payments from members. They also argued the law represents an unfair "takings" of union property by depriving them of necessary income to pay for expenses of bargaining on behalf of all employees, whether they are union members or not.
But Wingate ruled chambers of commerce and trade groups are voluntary associations and are not governed by federal labor law, including a federal law which permits states to pass right-to-work legislation.
The judge said the labor groups "lack a property interest which the government could take" because "future union security contracts" aren't protected under federal labor law and the Kentucky right-to-work law.
In announcing the labor groups would appeal Wingate's ruling, Bill Londrigan, President of Kentucky AFL-CIO, said the plaintiffs believe Kentucky"s appellate courts will rule differently.
"We believe our higher courts will recognize the harmful effect that this unjust and discriminatory law has on our workers and their unions," Londrigan said.
"Kentucky unions will continue to fight for all Kentucky's hard-working women and men to mitigate the detrimental consequences which right-to-work laws have had on workers in other states - lower wages, fewer workers with health care benefits and retirement plans, and more fatalities on the job - all while failing miserably in their empty promise of more jobs," Londrigan said.
He said Wingate failed to consider testimony by labor economics experts who testified that right-to-work laws lower wages and fail to generate new jobs.
Other labor groups have filed similar suits in other states with right-to-work laws but so far those have also been unsuccessful.