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West Virginia AFL-CIO, Others Launching Legal Challenge of Right to Work

This post originally appeared at the West Virginia AFL-CIO.

The West Virginia AFL-CIO has joined with several other unions representing the state's working people in launching a legal challenge of the Republican-led legislature’s "right to work" law.

West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenneth Perdue said:

While we believe we have strong grounds for a constitutional challenge of the law, based in part on the recent circuit court decision on the right to work law in Wisconsin, we also have found several significant flaws in West Virginia’s Senate Bill 1 as it was written, amended and adopted. Based on our reading of Senate Bill 1, the so-called right to work provisions included in the legislation do not apply to ANY private-sector employees that have collective bargaining agreements in the state of West Virginia.

State law requires 30-day notice of any legal action against the state be given to the attorney general and the affected agency’s chief officer. In accordance with West Virginia law, and under the advice of a team of attorneys with expertise in labor and constitutional law, a letter providing such notice was mailed to the attorney general and the West Virginia labor commissioner Thursday, noting that the civil action will maintain Senate Bill 1 violates the West Virginia Constitution.

"We maintain that such a right to work law generally violates the West Virginia Constitution’s prohibition of taking property without due process and compensation," West Virginia AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Josh Sword said. "But we also believe that, based on the specific definitions within the legislation of whom the provisions apply to, no private-sector contracts will be affected, regardless of a court ruling on its constitutionality."

There are other errors in Senate Bill 1—ranging from a defective title that fails to meet constitutional requirements to a faulty enactment date—that may or may not be included in the legal challenge.

"Regardless of the court challenge, these errors are clear indications of sloppy and hasty legislating, which has become a hallmark of the current Republican legislative leadership," Perdue said.

In fact, prior to the current Republican legislative leadership, most legislation of significance was referred to two major committees in both the House of Delegates and the Senate to allow a maximum number of members to closely deliberate on the bills prior to them being sent to the floor for a final vote. Senate Bill 1 was only referred to one committee in each house.

"We know that a right to work law is bad public policy that hurts working people—it lower wages, increases workplace deaths and does nothing to attract new jobs—yet somehow this was the legislative leadership’s top priority," Sword said. "If this was the cornerstone of their legislative agenda, they sure didn’t do a very good job of dotting their i’s and crossing their t's."

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