Teamsters, Kentucky AFL-CIO challenge state right-to-work law in court

FRANKFORT, Kent. —Teamsters Local 89 and the Kentucky AFL-CIO are challenging the Bluegrass State’s new so-called “right to work” law in court. By doing so, on May 25, they follow the footsteps of other unions nationwide, which have turned to the courts after GOP-dominated legislatures and right wing GOP governors pushed through anti-worker legislation. Kentucky passed its RTW law early this year.

RTW laws have been a favorite right wing, corporate and Republican cause for 70 years. The laws let so-called “free riders” – workers in union-represented shops who refuse to join unions – use union services and protections without paying one red cent for them in either dues or agency fees. That deprives unions of money to represent and defend workers.

Unions call RTW “right to work for less” since workers in RTW states earn thousands of dollars in lower annual wages and have fewer job protections, along with lower union density.

“We are proud to be on the front line in the fight to protect the hard-working women and men in Kentucky,” said Teamsters Local 89 President Fred Zuckerman in unveiling the lawsuit. “This assault on workers and their unions can’t be ignored, and we will continue leading this fight for as long as it takes to win.”

Local 89 said unions must sue as a class-action in Kentucky, so Zuckerman and state AFL-CIO President William Londrigan are the lead class plaintiffs in Franklin County Circuit Court, located in the state capital of Frankfort.

RTW “is a law directly targeted toward unions to weaken our ability to represent our workers and obtain good collective bargaining agreements and maintain good wage rates,” Londrigan told a news conference. “It’s part of that low-wage model of economic development that has been brought in by Gov. (Matt) Bevin and his cronies.” Bevin is a Republican.

RTW “punitively targets unions and thus impedes their ability to represent working people,” the court papers say. And it adds RTW laws not only deprive unions of money but sets up conflict between dues-payers and free riders.

The Teamsters say RTW means free riders are “taking dues money directly from the pockets of honest, proud, dues-paying members.”  They added such action “represents a clear and unfair taking of union resources and dues money without any sort of compensation, which we strongly believe is a violation of Kentucky’s Constitution.”

The unions add RTW also violates the constitution’s ban on “special legislation” singling out one particular group. Other groups – including the state Chamber of Commerce, which has pushed RTW for years – require anyone using their services to pay dues.

“Why are other organizations besides unions banned from requiring dues/membership fees for their services? The answer, of course, is simple: This legislation was designed solely to target unions, and therefore is in violation of the special legislation clause in the Kentucky Constitution,” Local 89 said. No date has been set for a hearing on the suit.

Source: PAI