Op-Eds

Notes from Brett: Kentucky should explore all avenues to boost competitiveness

Washington, DC, March 11, 2015
Across the country, a lasting trend has emerged with 25 other states instituting Right-to-Work laws. It's time for Kentucky to consider this policy. By allowing employees to decide whether or not they would like to pay a portion of their paycheck to a union, workers are empowered and have expanded choices in the workplace.

Kentucky’s economy is growing stronger, but it is imperative that we explore all avenues to ensure it is able to thrive, providing opportunities for workers to prosper and for businesses to expand.

Across the country, a lasting trend has emerged with 25 other states instituting Right-to-Work laws.  It’s time for Kentucky to consider this policy.  By allowing employees to decide whether or not they would like to pay a portion of their paycheck to a union, workers are empowered and have expanded choices in the workplace.

But there’s more to Right-to-Work laws than just providing greater choice to individual workers.  They have also boosted economic development in the states that have implemented them, providing greater opportunities across the whole workforce.  According to a recent study, workers in Right-to-Work states are less likely to be unemployed than in states with mandatory dues laws.  The reality is that Right-to-Work states are job-creating states.

This is one of the most important considerations for Kentucky. Some of our nearby states have implemented Right-to-Work laws, which encourage businesses to relocate and expand in these states, instead of Kentucky.   We must ensure the Commonwealth remains competitive in our region, and part of that effort includes sending a clear message that Kentucky is open for business.

Manufacturing is a critical industry in the Commonwealth, and one that particularly benefits from Right-to-Work laws.  According to the National Association of Manufacturers, more than 12,000 Kentuckians work in the manufacturing sector.  Taking home an average pay of nearly $68,000 (2012 data), these employees make a good living, but many lack the power to decide whether or not they contribute to a union or put that extra money toward living expenses.

To date, 10 Kentucky counties have already instituted their own initiatives.  Warren, Butler, Hardin, Logan, Todd, Fulton, Cumberland, Rockcastle, Simpson and Whitley counties have all voted to implement Right-to-Work laws and other counties have begun consideration of Right-to-Work laws.   In the absence of state-wide legislation, these areas of the Commonwealth are making this policy law in the hope of attracting and keeping important industries.

This isn’t an issue of being pro-union or not.  In businesses where employees are dissatisfied, they would still have the opportunity to organize, and where employees have already organized, these workers would not be prevented from voluntarily paying their dues.  Right-to-Work is about expanding worker choice and creating a climate that welcomes investment and growth.