Kentucky Gubernatorial Hopeful: Teacher Union Militants Have Right to Walk Out on Students

Is Andy Beshear more concerned about his political career than students’ education?

“[C]ompulsory unionism and corruption go hand in hand . . . .”

— U.S. Sen. John McClellan (D-Ark.)

Big Labor is out for revenge in the Bluegrass State.

This fall, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who publicly pledged again and again to sign a Kentucky Right to Work Law during his 2015 bid to become the state’s chief executive and fulfilled that promise in January 2017, is running for reelection.

The year during which Kentucky’s Right to Work Law was adopted and took effect is the state’s best-on-record year for pledged investments by businesses in expansions and new facility locations. And last year was the state’s second highest-ever investment performance.

Despite the manifest improvement in Kentucky’s economic climate since Bevin took over the governorship, many political pundits contend his bid for reelection will be difficult. A key reason why is that the national union electioneering machine, fueled largely by dues and fees that millions of workers are forced to fork over as a job condition, appears to be ready to spend whatever it takes to unseat him.

Running on the ballot against Bevin this November will be Democrat nominee Andy Beshear, currently the state’s attorney general.

Apparently sensing that it’s what he needs to do to garner the enthusiastic support of the national union bosses, upon whose money and manpower he is depending, Beshear is campaigning as a zealous proponent of monopoly privileges for Big Labor.

On his campaign website, Beshear openly acknowledges he “opposes” Kentucky’s Right to Work Law and vows that, if elected as governor, he will “every year” support “a bill to repeal” this statute. And in his capacity as attorney general, Beshear has already repeatedly initiated litigation to ensure a privileged status for government union bosses and their militant followers.

In a recent, bluntly worded legal opinion that responds to a case jointly filed by Beshear and officers of the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA/KEA/NEA) union, Judge Danny Reeves of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky wrote that the claims brought by the plaintiffs arguably “stand logic on its head.”

This April 29, Beshear and his JCTA union co-plaintiffs sued Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary David Dickerson after the latter rejected the attorney general’s request that he rescind subpoenas issued to 10 public school districts that had been disrupted by a series of illegal “sickouts” in February and March.

Kentucky law explicitly authorizes the Labor Cabinet to fine public servants, including teachers, up to $1,000 per day for participating in any orchestrated work stoppage. Such stoppages are illegal in Kentucky regardless of whether or not they are technically regarded as “strikes.”

No one seriously contests the “sickouts” that forced Kentucky school districts in Jefferson, Fayette, Madison, Marion, Bath, and five other counties to shut down for as many as seven days this year were orchestrated. While JCTA union bosses (implausibly) deny responsibility for what happened in their county, they are now vigorously defending the supposed “right” of radical teachers to, in Judge Reeves’ words, “avoid their employment obligations by improperly claiming to be sick.”

Dickerson’s subpoenas were part of a Labor Cabinet investigation designed to identify, to the extent it is reasonably possible, participants in the illegal “sickouts” so they may be held accountable for their actions.

But Beshear and company claim, outrageously, that whenever parents, students and taxpayers are deprived of teachers’ services as part of a strategy to defeat state legislation opposed by government union bosses, as was the case in Kentucky this year, public school “sickouts” are protected by the First Amendment. That would mean Kentucky’s and other state laws authorizing legal penalties against participants in school work stoppages are unconstitutional!

In his May 9 opinion and order denying the Beshear/JCTA motion for a temporary injunction, Dickerson was extremely skeptical about the plaintiffs’ constitutional and other claims, casting doubt on the future viability of the entire case.

But a possible defeat in Beshear v. Dickerson won’t trouble Big Labor too much if it succeeds in its ongoing quest to make Beshear the next governor of Kentucky. He has already proven his willingness even to “stand logic on its head” in the service of union special interests.