Kentucky Becomes 27th Right to Work State

Kentucky became the 27th right to work state this week, when Republican Governor Matt Bevin signed the bill that will allow union members to refuse to pay union dues. The law is a major victory for the Bluegrass State’s GOP, who were able to pass the legislation after winning a majority in the statehouse for the first time in 95 years, adding to the Republican-controlled state senate and Bevin in the governor’s mansion.

Not only will the legislation give workers more agency in their union membership, it is also a major signal to companies both foreign and domestic that Kentucky is open for business and investment.

Jim Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute, a free-market think tank based in Kentucky, explains the pro-growth components of the right to work legislation in the Richmond Register:

Since passing the nation’s first local right-to-work ordinance, Warren County has landed more than $1 billion in capital investment from companies who’ve signed to expand or relocate in southcentral Kentucky.

Per Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics, there currently are 55,000 available job openings today in that one county. …

If such growth can occur in a single county in southcentral Kentucky, imagine what will happen across the Bluegrass State with a right-to-work policy that attracts business and protects individual workers from being forced to pay union dues.

Waters also cites the examples of Indiana and Michigan, states that passed right to work legislation in 2012 and 2013, respectively, and have seen increased wages and job growth.

As Vincent Vernuccio of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center writes:

• Average wages in both Indiana and Michigan increased after right-to-work laws were passed.

• Between 2012 — when Michigan passed its right-to-work law — and mid-2015, incomes in Michigan rose more than 9 percent, which was faster than both West Virginia and the national average.

• Between 2012 and 2014, average hourly wages rose by 56 cents to $19.94 in Indiana, 56 cents to $21.70 in Michigan but only 37 cents to $18.21 in West Virginia.

Kentucky’s quick action is likely to provide momentum in Missouri, the state many experts view as the most likely to next pass right to work legislation. Republicans in the Missouri state legislature passed right to work legislation in 2015 but had the measure vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. Yet now Missouri elected Republican Eric Greitens as governor this past November, who has signaled his support for right to work and looks poised to sign such legislation into law later this year.

Gillum Ferguson is the Deputy Editor at Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @GillumFerguson.