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Ken Rechtin's Another Voice: Right to Work Ordinances in NKY Counties? Come On.

There were a lot of comments about NIMBY, what we citizens of NKY will accept in our backyards. More discussion will follow in a later column.

Meanwhile, without much prior public discussion and no public education on employment needs in NKY, last week Boone County had a first reading on a new law called “right to work”. Then Tuesday, Kenton County in similar fashion, without prior discussion or public education  took the same course. I am sure Campbell County will follow suit as well.

Late last year, it was rumored that the three fiscal courts of NKY were in agreement to uniformly pass such an ordinance, but my expectation was that there would be a good deal of discussion and education on the issue, the need, and the consequences, prior to taking up this legislation.

Because of the urgency for this education, this is the subject matter for this week’s column (and probably some future columns as well):

As many are aware, last year I walked the streets in Campbell County. (No, not the streetwalking that you are thinking of!)

I used up a whole lot of shoe rubber (or latex or whatever they make for the bottoms of red gym shoes). The next four paragraphs are fiction (which means that I made them up)!

Everywhere I stopped, people wanted to tell me they were being discriminated against by being forced to join a union. They wanted to stop the spread of “forced unionization”. Their freedoms were being taken from them!

They said the benefits they had by being a part of a union were something they did not want to pay for! They said they wanted a 40-hour work week, two weeks paid vacation, holiday pay, and good working conditions; but, they said they did not want to pay someone to negotiate that for them. They could do that individually, or if someone did, they just wanted the benefit but not to pay for it.

They said they did not want to pay to join a union or pay union dues.

They wanted the freedom to choose employment without coercion or restraint.

Many were incensed about this issue. They wanted a “right to work”.

Now I return you to the facts...

Never once did anyone at any of the houses that I visited during my campaign say anything about “right to work” legislation! Never once did anyone indicate that this was a priority for NKY. I must admit, I did not seek votes in Boone County where, last week, this legislation was first proposed. 

What are the people’s priorities that I heard last year?

The Sanitation District #1 was of great concern.

  • Folks in the unincorporated part of the county were adamantly opposed to paying a tax to SD1 on the rain that fell on their farms.
  • Folks in subdivisions who were told ten years ago when they built their house, they would get sewer services, but never received it, were upset.
  •  Folks in a historic rural community were upset that SD1 was using eminent domain (NIMBY) to force easements over their land to put in a high pressure sewer main to which they would have expensive access, but would disrupt their livelihoods.
  • Folks in the cities were upset that the SD1 suddenly decided the property owner was now responsible for the sewer lines under the streets.

Citizens were upset about the epidemic of heroin abuse and overdose.

  • They wanted the county to help. One fellow spoke about how his daughter was still waiting, “after six months”, for arraignment for possession of heroin. He complained that she had to detox in the county jail without adequate medical help.
  • Other complained about the lack of treatment programs and facilities for those addicted.

Many people complained about “out of control” taxing and spending.

  • Citizens spoke about the growth and spending on jails.
  • They complained about how county taxes subsidized golf.
  • They complained about the tax dollars which support empty TANK buses.
  • They voiced their opinions, pro and con, about our libraries.

Folks were disgusted with the lavish travel expenses of the Airport Board.

  • They wondered aloud about how the structure of the board was such that Campbell and Boone did not have a voting member?

Citizens told me their position on gun ownership.

  • The overwhelming majority just wanted to have their guns.

They wanted better internet access, cable access and cellular access.

  • Many felt the current providers did not do enough to provide coverage for the entire county.

Citizens were upset about national politics.

  • Obama and Obamacare and the war in Afghanistan and funding of foreign governments were their leading anger points.

And they spoke about right to life!

  • Most believed, as I do, in the sanctity of life. Some disagreed with my position on the death penalty.

But, no one even used the phrase: “right to work”. I was never asked about “right to work”! No one ever said to me, “What our county needs is an ordinance which protects my right to work without paying union dues.”

Now, wait, I must be honest and continue with facts!

About two to three months before the fall elections, Dan Tobergte, President and CEO of Tri County Economic Development (Tri-ED is a tax funded organization), did come before the Campbell County Fiscal Court to speak about Tri-ED’s legislative agenda for the upcoming General Assembly. He did indicate that the number one priority of Tri-ED was to push for statewide “right to work” legislation. He said companies seeking to relocate would almost always seek a state which had passed “right to work” legislation. His presentation called Kentucky a “forced unionization” state.

But, wait a minute, exactly what are the employment needs in NKY?

The following is from a study performed by the Northern Kentucky Industrial Park Association (NKIP):

“The manufacturing industry has an important place in U.S. history, the economy, and the future. The same is true, although the impact may be greater, as you zoom into the Northern Kentucky region where a host of companies have established and invested in significant manufacturing operations. For the public, it’s an industry that goes unnoticed, even as droves of people in the tri-state continue to look for jobs. For the manufacturing employers in Northern Kentucky, it’s a struggle to explain why there are approximately 680 manufacturing job openings today.”

From this very publication, The River City News, on November 18, 2014:

As Region Struggles to Fill Manufacturing Jobs, Northern Kentucky Leaders Form Coalition to Fix Problem

“If Northern Kentucky hopes to produce the skilled workforce necessary to retain the advanced manufacturers who operate here, something has to be done and on Tuesday, Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Trey Grayson announced a new effort, saying the partners of a new coalition bring diverse experiences, expertise, and relationships to the unified effort.

A February 2013 report by the Commonwealth of Kentucky indicated that Northern Kentucky is home to just over 18,000 manufacturing jobs that pay an average salary of more than $55,000. With benefits, the average job is worth over $70,000. Both those figures are higher than the average Kentuckian earns. To support the manufacturers located and locating in the region, local business leaders supported the creation of the Center for Advanced Manufacturing at the Boone County campus of Gateway.

Between 2010 and 2014 Gateway's Center for Advanced Manufacturing produced only 296 graduates, or 74 per year. That figure was cited in a letter to Hughes earlier this month signed by Grayson, Tobergte, and Judges-Executive Gary Moore (Boone), Steve Pendery (Campbell), and Steve Arlinghaus (Kenton), and obtained by

The River City News. Overall, there is a shortfall of 4,042 graduates, something the letter writers say has an economic impact on the region of $832 million.

The Gateway Community Report 2014, from which the number of graduates was taken, does not meet the needs of the region, the letter writers’ state and they request a new strategy from Hughes and Gateway to be presented to them and the manufacturing community by January 5, 2015. That new strategy should include a path towards producing the more than 600 graduates needed per year, the letter stated.

Help is now here in the form of the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Coalition which is in the formation stages and will be led by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Authority (Tri-ED), and Gateway.

Membership in the coalition includes the judges-executive of Boone, Campbell, and Kenton Counties, as well as representatives from Vision 2015, the Brighton Center, the Northern Kentucky Workforce INVESTMENT Board, Impact NKY (a non-profit affiliated with the Chamber), representatives from the advanced manufacturing community, and the Northern Kentucky Area Development District.

Dan Tobergte, president and CEO of Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, an agency charged with recruiting and growing jobs in the region, said: “A pipeline of skilled labor is critical to the success of Northern Kentucky.”

So, while high pay jobs go unfilled here in NKY, Tri-ED and the three fiscal courts now feel they must enact “right to work” legislation to entice low pay employers into NKY?

The US Small Business Administration says that about 60-percent of the private-sector net new jobs are from existing businesses.

Let me repeat this. The SBA says that 60% of new jobs come from existing businesses!

The Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper published in March 2011, a study of those states which have enacted “right to work” laws says, For those states looking beyond traditional or low-wage manufacturing jobs – whether to higher-tech manufacturing, to “knowledge” sector jobs, or to service industries dependent on consumer spending in the local economy – there is reason to believe that right-to-work laws may actually harm a state’s economic prospects.

”So what we have here is “a failure to communicate”. 

On the one hand we have a need for an educated workforce and on the other hand we have a political force which feels that the community is better served to pass a “right to work” law which “may actually harm a state’s economic prospects”. “Right to Work” may actually hurt higher paying job creation! So, why would we do this? 

I contend that to increase the availability of low wage jobs with the enactment of “right to wok” laws is contradictory to the need that exists within NKY. NKIP’s study demonstrates the need for an educated workforce which meets the employment needs of the manufacturers. Our elected and hired leadership had recognized this fact just a few short months ago. Our existing businesses and industries (where more than 60% of new jobs come from) need our help. The NKIP 2012 study indicates that our education community is failing them. 

So we have a choice: We can commit ourselves to be the “low wage Mexico” of Kentucky or we can help grow our existing manufacturing businesses, our economy and our citizen’s wages with education programs to match the needs of our current employers who create over 60% of net new jobs. 

Seems to me that this is an issue of education not an issue of “right to work”?

What do you think? Tell me how you would rank “right to work” in the list of things that need fixin’ here in NKY: Click Here

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