District Court Strikes Down Local Right-To-Work- Update from KLC Member Legal Services

District Court Strikes Down Local Right-To-Work

On February 3, 2016, the federal court for the Western District of Kentucky held that the only way for Kentucky to be a right-to-work state is through legislation passed at the state rather than local level, as required by the National Labor Relations Act. See United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America. Et. al. v. Hardin  County, Kentucky.

Right-to-work laws are state or local laws that prohibit union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers, governing the extent to which an established union can require employees' membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Right-to-work laws do not aim to provide a general guarantee of employment to people seeking work, but rather are a government regulation of the contractual agreements between employers and labor unions that prevents them from excluding non-union workers or requiring employees to pay a fee to unions that have negotiated the labor contract under which all employees work.

Since this is a finding at the trial level, the precedent is currently only binding within the Western District of Kentucky.  When, and if, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on this matter, its opinion will be binding precedent throughout Kentucky and the other states subject to its jurisdiction.

District Court Judge David J. Hale granted summary judgment to the UAW concluding that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) preempts the right-to-work, hiring-hall, and dues-checkoff provisions of Hardin County Ordinance 300.  Section 14(b) of the NLRA is the only exception to the NLRA preemption of the field of labor relations, and it does not extend to counties or municipalities, only the state-level.  Because Ordinance 300 does not fall under §14(b)'s narrow exception, the ordinance provisions are invalid.  Hardin County has announced that they are appealing Judge Hale's findings.

Read the full analysis of the case.