West Virginia Judge Temporarily Halts State Right-to-Work Law

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

A West Virginia county judge has temporarily halted the Mountain State’s so-called “right to work” law, which the right wing GOP-run legislature enacted last year. The law was supposed to take effect this summer.

After a hearing in Kanawha County Circuit Court in the state capital of Charleston, Judge Jennifer Bailey issued a temporary injunction against the statute. She said postponing it would not materially hurt the state. She’ll hold a full hearing on its legality within 90 days.

Right-to-work laws are a favorite cause of big business, the radical right and their GOP political puppets nationwide.

The laws ban unions from negotiating contract clauses that say workers in a covered workplace must pay either union dues or – if they object – agency fees which cover only the costs of collective bargaining and contract enforcement.

Their practical impact is to make workers “free riders,” by sticking unions with the bill for bargaining and protecting them, but without the revenue to do so. As a result, RTW laws weaken unions’ impact and workers’ pay and benefits.

The West Virginia AFL-CIO and ten unions separately sued in the Kanawha court after state lawmakers passed, and Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed, the RTW law. It made West Virginia the 26th right-to-work state. Several months ago, unions sued to stop it.

Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, a West Virginian who is also president of Local 175 in South Charleston, and state AFL-CIO President Kenneth Perdue testified against the law during the Aug. 10 court hearing. Bailey then issued her order against RTW, and rolled all 11 cases into one future session.

“In addition to being bad public policy, this law violates the West Virginia constitution’s prohibition of taking property without due process and compensation,” Perdue told Bailey.

“The language of the bill -- as it was written, amended and enacted into law -- has significant issues that are in violation of the West Virginia Constitution,” Hall said. He seconded Perdue’s point about the unconstitutional taking of unions’ property.

“The ‘Workplace Freedom Act’ will not bring freedom to the workplace, as the name deceitfully suggests. Rather, it will deny hardworking West Virginians the rights and protections they need to survive,” Hall said.

“If this becomes the law of the land, it will not only be in violation of our state’s very own constitution. It will cause workers’ wages to go down and workplace injuries to go up. This legislation is unconstitutional, unethical and unacceptable for West Virginia,” Hall added afterwards.

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Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Press Associates

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