CINCINNATI (Legal Newsline) – A federal appeal's court’s decision to uphold a Kentucky county’'s right-to-work ordinance and restrict labor unions' roles in the workplace could motivate other local governments to fight for right-to-work legislation, and may have been the push for Kentucky to become the 27th state to enact a state-wide, right-to-work law.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in November in United Auto Workers (UAW) v. Hadin County that federal law could not block the county from banning the use of agreements between employers and unions.
The Sixth Circuit panel ruled that right-to-work laws are not preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, and became the first federal appellate court to look at the issue.
“The ruling was both a surprise and logical,” labor and employment law attorney Howard Bloom of Jackson Lewis in Boston told Legal Newsline. “
"My first impression of this is that it is not something that has been litigated before; it is a section of labor law that labor attorneys don’t think about on a daily basis," he said.
Just two months later, Kentucky Republicans gave final approval to right-to-work legislation. The bill is expected to be signed by the governor and take effect immediately.
"“I do think there will be other counties that will try to enact right-to-work laws, at least as a way to help counties from an economic standpoint,"” Bloom said. "“One assumes that companies will be more willing to do business and relocate to a county that is right to work.”"
This month, a federal judge in Illinois struck down a right-to-work law for a village of Lincolnshire in Illinois. The decision was handed down by Judge Matthew Kennelly of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The village has said it will appeal the decision to the Seventh Circuit.
"What this means is that we could end up with the Seventh Circuit saying one thing and the Sixth Circuit saying another thing, and then the case could eventually end up in the Supreme Court," Bloom said.
“Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act says that states can have right-to-work laws. The Sixth Circuit interpreted the word "states" to include municipalities and counties, whereas in the Lincolnshire case the word "state" was still interpreted to be only a state,” Bloom told Legal Newsline.
The ruling could fuel efforts to pass similar measures elsewhere under the Trump administration.
“"There are two vacancies in the five-member NLRB. Assuming Trump fills those vacancies with pro-business members, which is most likely, then we will have a 3-2, pro-business majority," Bloom said.
"They don’t really get involved in right-to-work. However, if someone were to ask them about these cases, you would assume from a philosophical standpoint, they would agree with the Sixth Circuit, because right-to-work is more in line with pro-business than pro-labor."