Judge strikes down West Virginia’s ‘RTW’ law as ‘unconstitutional’

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By ED FINKELSTEIN
Publisher

RTW IS WRONG warns this sign in West Virginia on the eve of the legislature’s 2016 RTW vote – “Wrong for working and middle class families! Wrong for West Virginia! Wrong for all of us!”

Charleston, W.Va. ­– “This is a win for all of West Virginia’s working families,” said Ken Hall, general secretary-treasurer of the International Teamsters Union and president of Teamsters Local 175 about a recent court ruling overturning West Virginia’s phony “right-to-work” law.

After a three-year legal battle, a West Virginia circuit judge ruled the law unconstitutional.

“Membership is the lifeblood of any union,” and forcing unions to provide the same services to all workers, whether union members or not, “seriously hampers the unions’...” Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey stated in her decision.

MAKING THEMSELVES HEARD, West Virginia union members flooded the State Capitol in 2016 to urge legislators not to pass RTW. – Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO photo

The law, passed in 2016, was challenged by the state AFL-CIO and several unions on the grounds that the law illegally took their assets since unions still have to represent all employees in a union shop, including those that the law would allow to stop paying union dues. The unions’ challenge said that violated West Virginia’s constitutional prohibition against taking property without due process and compensation.

‘WORK FOR NOTHING’
In her ruling, Judge Bailey said the law would have required unions and union officials “to work, to supply their valuable expertise, and to provide expensive services for nothing.”

West Virginia AFL-CIO President Josh Sword said Bailey “was right-on with her ruling. We entered into this lengthy legal challenge nearly three years ago because we knew the law violated the rights of West Virginia workers — and we simply won’t stand for that.”

The RTW law, passed by West Virginia’s Republican legislature in 2016, was vetoed by then governor Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, only to have the veto overridden by the legislature. The case is now expected to go to the state’s Supreme Court.

FLOODING THE STATE CAPITOL, union members from across West Virginia protested passage of the phony “right-to-work” law in 2016. The law was recently overturned by a circuit judge on the grounds that it violated the state constitution’s prohibition against taking property without due process and compensation. – Teamsters photo

PHONY JOBS ARGUMENT
As to the common anti-union business argument that RTW creates jobs, Sword said, “We’ve seen job growth go down, throughout West Virginia. So, it’s not leading to anything related to a positive impact on our economy. It’s done nothing but make it more difficult for unions to do what they do best, and that’s represent workers.”

In the run-up to Missouri’s RTW (Prop A) last year, the Labor Tribune ran a series on RTW states and found in the ranking of “best and worst job markets,” West Virginia ranked third worst in the nation, above only Wyoming and Alaska.

(Information for this story from AFL-CIO Labor Wire, Associated Press, Charleston Gazette-Mail, American Prospect.)

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