Politics

The leader of the Kentucky AFL-CIO says labor groups are ready to fight future efforts to pass what supporters call right-to-work laws.

Union groups scored a major legal victory Wednesday when U.S. District Judge David Hale ruled that county governments can’t enact the rules on a local level.

Right-to-work laws prohibit mandatory union membership as a condition of employment.

Twelve Kentucky counties enacted local right-to-work ordinances last year after efforts to pass a statewide version failed in the General Assembly. Hardin County was one of the dozen that did so, and labor unions filed a suit against the county challenging the legality of the move.

Kentucky AFL-CIO executive director Bill Londrigan said unions know the legal battle isn’t over, despite this week’s court victory.

“We fully expect the defendants to file an appeal on this case, and with the strong, strong ruling by the U.S. District Judge David Hale, we feel that they’re going to be unsuccessful at that level, as well,” Londrigan said.

Supporters of right-to-work, including Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, say the laws make states more attractive to businesses. This week’s ruling against county right-to-work efforts could mean supporters redouble their efforts to get a statewide law passed.

Londrigan says unions are ready for the challenge.

“We’re going to keep fighting them like we have been,” he said. “So far we’ve been successful, and we’re going to continue to maintain that record on behalf of the hard-working men and women of Kentucky.”

A study published in 2015 by the Economic Policy Institute showed wages in states with right-to-work laws are 3.1 percent lower than those in states that don’t have the law.

Twenty-five states have passed right-to-work laws, including Indiana, Tennessee, and Virginia.