Kentucky’s new right-to-work law, passed during the first week of the 2017 General Assembly and immediately signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin, means that workers can no longer be forced to join a union or pay union dues to work at a company that is represented by a labor union.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has supported this legislation for decades. During this time, all other Southern states — our direct competitors — passed right-to-work laws. Indiana became a right to work state in 2012, meaning Kentucky was virtually surrounded with stiff pro-business competition for jobs. Add laws in Michigan and West Virginia to the mix, and Kentucky was clearly a conspicuous outlier in this much-needed area of reform.
But Kentucky has now joined the ranks of 27 other states with right-to-work laws. These states report faster per capita income growth, faster progress in manufacturing and non-agricultural jobs, greater capital expenditures, lower unemployment and fewer work stoppages.
Although there is a large body of economic research on the positive effects right-to-work laws have on the economy, we don’t have to rely on national studies or stories from other states. We have proof that right to work is already working for Kentucky and doing exactly what was promised: creating jobs.
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Recently, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development announced that capital investments have reached $5.8 billion just in the first five months of 2017 — breaking all previous investment records. These investments have led to the announcement of more than 9,500 jobs this year and will spark additional opportunities for employment in Kentucky.
In April, Braidy Industries announced that it would open a manufacturing facility in Ashland, where it plans to employ more than 500 people with an average annual salary of $75,000. Braidy CEO Craig Bouchard stated publicly that passage of right-to-work legislation was a deciding factor in locating the company in the commonwealth.
Such announcements come as no shock to economic-development professionals across the state who work to attract quality jobs to their communities. They know that right to work determines the fate of many business decisions and that Kentucky has lost prospects in the past because it was not a right to work state.
In May, labor unions filed suit to challenge Kentucky’s right to work law, but similar laws have been upheld in other states in the face of union challenges. Meanwhile, costly court battles dampen the ability of Kentucky officials to market the state to new employers who will create the jobs that Kentuckians want and deserve.
For years, Kentucky has struggled to become more competitive, and we have turned an important corner with the leadership of the governor and General Assembly to designate Kentucky as open for business. We hope the court challenge will be settled quickly to ensure Kentucky’s pro-growth momentum is sustained.