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June 2012
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Right-to-work law misunderstood by opponents

By JIM WATERS The Bluegrass Institute


The Bluegrass Institute

The closer Kentucky moves toward a right-to-work policy, the more agitated opponents become.

But I'm hopeful that facts about what a right-to-work policy is, is not and how it's working in the 24 states that already have it will trump false claims and fear mongering by those who seem woefully confused about the issue.

Steven Wright of Hodgenville based on his recent ideological missive published by the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise definitely is among those mistaken about what a right-to-work law would - and would not - do for Kentucky.

It's evident from Wright's letter that he was none too pleased about my recent column claiming Kentucky is up against the economic development wall and will remain there without a right-to-work law.

"It suggests that there is something wrong with our state because we protect the rights of workers to organize and the right to collective bargain," Wright wrote about my stance.

He's definitely confused.

All a right-to-work law does is ensure that individuals have the right to join, not join or leave a union without fear of losing their jobs. It interferes in no way with workers who want to join - and enjoy the full benefits - of a union.

House Bill 496, the right-to-work bill filed and voted on by the Kentucky House Labor and Industry Committee earlier this year, actually begins by ensuring employees' freedom to organize.

"Employees may, free from restraint or coercion by the employers or their agents, associate collectively for self-organization and designate collectively representatives of their own choosing to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment to effectively promote their own rights and general welfare," reads Section 1 of KRS 336.130.

It even goes on to protect the rights of employees "collectively and individually" to "strike, engage in peaceful picketing, and assemble collectively for peaceful purposes."

Liberty-minded Kentuckians - including this columnist - would unequivocally oppose any proposal to take away individuals' rights to organize, join, form or fund a labor union.

However, along with opposing any attempt to keep individual Kentuckians from joining and supporting a union, most of our fellow citizens also support allowing individual workers to forgo union membership if they don't believe it's in their own personal interest.

A new Google Consumer Surveys poll conducted in July and released by the Bluegrass Institute as part of National Employee Freedom Week confirmed strong support for a right-to-work policy in Kentucky; 80 percent of the 500 respondents answered in the affirmative to a single question: "Should employees have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union?"

The poll's margin of error is less than 4 percent.

Cut through the noise of the irritants plus the fog of their emotion and you have strong, clear support for the kind of sound labor policy that will remove Kentucky's name from the "No Call" lists of site selection consultants and the manufacturers they advise.

I'm pretty sure that Wright, based on the tone and direction of his letter, certainly isn't intending to help promote right-to-work for Kentucky. But he inadvertently does just that by pointing out that "right-to-work laws are in the states with the lowest taxes."

Wow. Thank you, Steven Wright! That's one of those positive, unintended consequences of a right-to-work law that we haven't even yet addressed in this column.

Any honest columnist will admit they are always looking for new topics or different angles on frequently addressed issues. That could work here, too, with a headline something along the lines of: "Right-to-work brings lower taxes to the commonwealth."

That's more than a good column topic. It's a good idea for Kentucky.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky's free market think tank.

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