Wyatt Employment Law Report


The Supreme Court of Kentucky Upholds Employees’ Right-to-Work

By Marianna Michael

The Supreme Court of Kentucky has rejected a challenge to Kentucky’s right-to-work law, which prohibits companies from requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition for holding a job.

The relevant provision, codified in KRS 336.130, states:

Notwithstanding subsection (1) of this section or any provision of the Kentucky Revised Statutes to the contrary, no employee shall be required, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment, to:

2. Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges of any kind or amount to a labor organization.

Kentucky’s AFL-CIO and Teamsters 84 challenged the law. They argued that, pursuant to the Fifth Amendment, the law amounted to an unconstitutional taking from labor organizations that had previously required every worker in a union shop to pay dues, regardless of whether they joined the union. Additionally, they argued that the law was unconstitutional because the Kentucky Constitution prevents lawmakers from passing “special legislation” or laws targeting a specific group or class.

However, both the lower court and the Supreme Court of Kentucky disagreed. The lower court dismissed the case, reasoning that there would be no constitutional taking, since the law was not retroactive and contracts that are currently in existence will remain effective until the contracts expire. Additionally, the court’s opinion distinguished the legislature’s right to create laws and the court’s role in protecting the General Assembly’s ability to legislate. The Supreme Court of Kentucky affirmed the lower court’s ruling.


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Indiana’s New Right-To-Work Law Challenged In Court

By John W. Woodard, Jr.

Indiana’s new business-friendly right-to-work law is being challenged in federal Court.  Local 150 of the International Union of Operating Engineers has filed suit seeking to enjoin enforcement of the law claiming that it is both unconstitutional and pre-empted by federal labor law.  A Motion for Temporary Restraining Order is currently set for hearing on March 5, 2012, in the U.S. District Court at Hammond, Indiana.  The Union’s affidavit in support of its motion asserts, among other things, that “the ability to cease paying dues completely may prove too attractive for some of our members to resist.” 

Right-to-work laws prohibit provisions in union contracts which force non-member employees in unionized workplaces to pay “fair share” fees for a union’s collective bargaining efforts and representation. Indiana is the 23rd state to adopt business-friendly right-to-work legislation, and it is the first state to have done so since Oklahoma in 2001.