May 25, 2017 / 8:19 PM / 2 years ago

Unions sue to stop Kentucky's 'right-to-work' law

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) - Two labor groups filed suit in a Kentucky court on Thursday challenging a state law passed earlier this year letting employees work in union-represented shops and get union-negotiated benefits without paying dues for such representation.

The “right-to-work” law violates the equal protection clause of the state constitution, said Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky AFL-CIO.

The union, as well as Louisville-based Teamsters Local 89, filed the lawsuit - which seeks class-action status - against the state and Governor Matt Bevin in Franklin Circuit Court in the capital, Frankfort. It is asking the court to bar enforcement of the law and declare it unconstitutional and invalid.

“We have a great opportunity to prevail and stop this unconstitutional overreach,” Londrigan said by telephone.

Londrigan added that courts in other states, such as West Virginia, had granted injunctions against similar laws for the same reason.

Kentucky state officials called the lawsuit “frivolous.”

“It’s shameful that groups like the AFL-CIO and Teamsters are playing political games at a time when Kentucky is experiencing unprecedented economic development growth,” Bevin’s press secretary, Woody Maglinger, said in an email. “This frivolous lawsuit threatens to hurt Kentucky’s families.”

In January, Republican lawmakers in Kentucky passed the right-to-work bill, making it the 27th U.S. state to do so. The Republican governor signed it into law two days later.

The legislation was passed two months after Republicans won control of the state’s General Assembly for the first time since 1921.

Supporters of the law say it will spur economic growth and attract businesses to the state, while opponents see it as an assault on organized labor and blue-collar workers that limits union revenues and erodes wages, benefits and safety.

Last month, Bevin cited the new law as a factor in Braidy Industries choosing to build an aluminum mill expected to employ 500 people in Wurtland in northeastern Kentucky.

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