The Kentucky Capitol on Jan. 4, 2023. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Arden Barnes)
A judge has temporarily blocked a new Kentucky law barring some public-sector unions from being able to collect dues through payroll deductions.
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Brian Edwards issued a temporary injunction July 3 against the implementation of Senate Bill 7 in a lawsuit brought by local unions in Louisville.
SB 7, sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, prevents public employers from assisting with “any labor organization, person, or other legal entity with the collection of dues, fees, assessments, or other charges” or the collection of personal information for labor unions.
Edwards in his order said the unions had successfully argued that there would be “immediate and irreparable harm” to the unions unless the law is temporarily blocked while the lawsuit over its constitutionality is considered. One of the unions, Teamsters Local Union 783, had collected all of its dues through payroll deductions until SB 7 went into effect in late March.
These local unions assert SB 7 — which the Republican-dominated state legislature passed over the veto of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear — violates the equal protection of the law guaranteed under the Kentucky Constitution because the law exempted unions for law enforcement, jail and prison staff and firefighters from the new law.
Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron and a Republican lawmaker in support of the law have defended it and its exemptions saying the “hazardous nature” of some occupations is the reasoning for the exclusions. A spokesperson for Cameron’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the temporary injunction.
The law exempted public-sector unions that had existing contracts with employers to continue to collect dues through payroll deductions until the contracts expired. Ron Richmond, the communications director for AFSCME Indiana-Kentucky Council 962, represents a local union that was a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
“We have about 12 or 14 locals across the state, but only two of them actually have their contracts opening or open right now. So the impact would have been immediate for them,” Richmond said. “The injunction was necessary to protect the process for the ones that kind of had something at risk right away.”
Richmond said with the temporary injunction, employers can again collect union dues through payroll deductions.
The Kentucky Education Association, the state’s largest union representing teachers, has another lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of SB 7 on similar grounds pending in Franklin Circuit Court.
The executive director for KEA had previously said approximately 90% of its union members pay dues through payroll deductions. A KEA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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