by Olivia Sandbothe | April 02, 2015
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is already notorious for pushing a corporate agenda in state capitols all over the country. The secretive Washington, DC, group is not satisfied with promoting union-busting legislation at the state level, however. Now, ALEC is setting its sights on local governments.
Kentucky is the testing grounds for ALEC’s new local strategy. Earlier this year, the Kentucky state Legislature defeated a right-to-work bill following an outpouring of public opposition. But the corporate insiders at ALEC aren’t going to let a little thing like the will of the people get in their way. Instead, they’re trying to push the right-to-work scam at a county level.
For the record, this is illegal. Under the Taft-Hartley Law, passed over President Truman’s veto in 1947, only states are authorized to pass these kinds of laws. Kentucky’s highest court said as much in a 1965 ruling, and Kentucky’s Attorney General Jack Conway recently warned counties that local right-to-work ordinances won’t hold up in court.
But out-of-state interests are pushing ahead anyway. Leading the campaign is a notorious union foe named Brent Yessin. Yessin is a Florida-based lawyer who made a career out of advising management about how to break unions.
ALEC and Yessin are disguising their efforts behind a group called Protect My Check. The group bills itself as a grassroots effort, but its registered address is the same as Yessin’s consulting offices in Florida and it doesn’t disclose its donors. Yessin certainly didn’t sound like a grassroots Kentuckian when he told an ALEC conference last year that “there's going to be a lot of litigation. We'll have a state counsel in each of the states that will help coordinate all the appeals."
Unfortunately, these underhanded legal tactics are working. Eleven counties have now passed the ordinance, and working people will have to go up against massive corporate interests and their lawyers in order to challenge the laws in court.
If this Kentucky experiment goes unchallenged, we can expect to see the same laws transplanted into counties across the nation. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner already said he’d like to copy the tactic in his state. Forget “all politics is local.” If ALEC gets its way, even local politics won’t be local any more.
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