The momentum for right-to-work measures at the state level seems to have gained traction in recent years, with a key example being somewhat recent right-to-work legislation that passed in Michigan, where the UAW otherwise ran the table in automotive manufacturing plants. And now it appears that right-to-work measures may take to the local level in the state of Kentucky.
Kentucky’s Warren County (which includes Bowling Green) recently approved a local right to work ordinance, which passed 5-1 in the county legislature. The new law would make union dues a voluntary expense versus a mandatory expense for private sector workers. The measure still has to come back up to the legislature for a second and final reading next week. If it passes, then it would take away the ability of unions to compel workers to pay union dues. In short, the legislation could be a huge loss to the UAW since the Corvette plant at Bowling Green is a key source of union revenue and the loss of dues from this particular facility would be a huge hit for the UAW as well as other worker unions in the area.
The county’s ability to pass this ordinance stems from the National Labor Relations Act which not only set the basic ground rules for unionization among private workers, but also allowed states to pass right-to-work laws at the same time. The issue has been a hot button topic for legal scholars, and the Supreme Court has never tried a case in regards to this issue. While the legal ramifications of this law will undoubtedly face multiple court challenges, an immediate impact will likely be seen at Bowling Green. UAW Local 2164 (the UAW chapter that represents Bowling Green) currently collects dues from every worker at the plant, but according to a recent Federal financial disclosure report the chapter only spends a mere 2 percent of its $560,000 budget on “representational activities.” And as a result of the legislation, Local 2164’s members may get an opportunity to choose where their money goes, which could put the squeeze on the union’s budget in the long haul. Though we will have to monitor the effects over time to be sure.