Kentuckians need choices. Politics often presents false choices to shore up partisan support on an issue.
Americans for Prosperity Kentucky wanted to understand how Kentuckians felt about workplace choice outside of the political drama.
The results of our poll were interesting.
Of respondents, 39 percent didn't even know what a right-to-work law is. But when educated on what a right-to-work law means, "no one can be required to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment," 59 percent agree.
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This support is derived from a sample of 600 Kentuckians composed of 35 percent Democrats, 30 percent Republicans, 16 percent Independents and 19 percent of people who identified as something else or did not disclose an answer.
When the concept of right-to-work is made as a simple statement, "While workers should have the right to unionize, they should not be forced to join a union or pay dues to one they don't support," it has the backing of 80 percent of respondents.
What does this tell us? Outside of political theatrics, right-to-work appeals to Kentuckians because it gives them choice.
This leads to another question, which requires us to look outside of Kentucky for the answer: "What are the benefits of choice?"
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, choice yields substantial benefits. From 2003 to 2013, states that had right-to-work laws increased their employment rolls by 9.5 percent. Compared to states that did not offer right-to-work protections, right-to-work states more than doubled their job growth, and it was three percentage points more than the national average for that period.
Jobs can mean many things to many people, but in cultivating sustainable economic growth, the desirable jobs are ones that pay employees high wages and have the opportunity for those wages to increase over time. The Bureau of Economic Analysis found that from 2003 to 2013 private sector employee compensation for right-to-work states increased by 16 percent (excluding Indiana and Michigan, which became right-to-work only in 2012 and 2013, respectively).
This is almost double the average increase for states that are not right-to-work. Employee compensation growth is a strong indicator that the job market is presenting more high-wage opportunities.
Kentucky, however, stands out from other states offering employees choice through right-to-work. "Home rule," which empowers our fiscal courts to pass their own laws as long as they do not conflict with the state or federal constitutions, makes right-to-work a possibility at the county level.
To date, 12 counties have passed ordinances that give employees the choice to join but protect them from being fired if they choose not to pay union dues.
Several unions have objected to earning the financial support of their members, and that has led to a court challenge of right-to-work ordinances. Protect My Paycheck offers free legal services to counties defending lawsuits against their right-to-work ordinances.
The counties that have acted think they have three good reasons: more jobs, bigger raises and individual choice. Their legal case is just as simple. Federal law clearly allows states to pass right-to-work, and states, like Kentucky, have delegated that power to the counties to do what they need to do to promote job growth and economic development.
Putting aside the argument about costs and even ignoring the legal defense fund to pay for county litigation, there is a bigger issue. Those against right-to-work have realized they can't support their position on the merits, so they have resorted to the false choice of scare tactics, such as "counties can't afford the litigation, so therefore they shouldn't pass right-to-work." That leaves anyone who supports right-to-work thinking it is fiscally irresponsible.
The threat of litigation is not a reason to deprive anyone of their rights or the expansion of them. When did choice become irresponsible?
It's time that we close the curtain on the false choices of this political drama. Right-to-work is not a choice between being pro-union or anti-union — it's an opportunity to allow workers to decide for themselves.
Julia Crigler is state director of Americans for Prosperity Kentucky. Brent Yessin is founder of ProtectMyPaycheck.org.