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Teamsters File Lawsuit Against WV “Right-to-Work” Law, Say Lawmakers Have Something to Hide

WV State Sen. Bill Cole, "Right-to-Work" sponsor

WV State Sen. Bill Cole, “Right-to-Work” sponsor

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As West Virginia moves towards “Right-to-Work,” the Teamsters union has filed a lawsuit claiming that the State Senate did not abide by a Freedom of Information Act request that sought emails between Senate leadership and professors at West Virginia University.  Last week, the House passed the “Establishing West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act” by a 54-46 margin after vicious debate in which 10 Republicans bucked the party line and supported workers. Earlier in the week, the Senate voted 18-16 to pass the anti-worker legislation.

The bill was fast-tracked by the legislature, passing through committee hearings, floor debate, and final votes in a span of three weeks.  It was then vetoed by Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. However, given the state constitution’s allowance of veto overrides by a simple majority vote, West Virginia is likely to soon become the 26th “Right-to-Work” state in the nation.  Speaking to the Register-Herald, State Sen. Bill Cole ® said the legislature will move to override quickly:

“We want to get it done.  We want to put all of this in the rearview mirror and go to work on the budget and some other things that are pressing. We’ll take it up quickly.”

The sudden change in political momentum in West Virginia stands in stark contrast to its place in history as a bastion of the labor movement.  Following the House vote, Del. Nancy Guthrie told the Washington Post:

“Those folks set the gold standard for what miners would be paid, what kind of safety they would have in their workplace.  Those are all things that we fight for on a daily basis. And today, what we are about to do is turn our back on that proud history.”

The Teamsters union will attempt to stunt this bad bill’s growth, taking the Senate to court for their role in concealing communications between leadership and the WVU professor who provided the data they used as the foundation of their pro-Right-to-Work argument.  According to the Teamsters, legislative supporters of the pending legislation used state money to fund a study that was intended to provide cover for anti-worker objectives rather than independently considering the actual impact of the law on the West Virginia economy.

Ken Hall, Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer and President of Teamsters Local 175 in South Charleston, said in a statement:

“The people of West Virginia have the right to know what their legislators are hiding. Why won’t Senate leadership turn over these emails?  The people of West Virginia deserve to know about communications between our flagship public university and elected political leaders.”

Though “Right-to-Work” seems imminent, many hope it’s centrality to the upcoming gubernatorial race, in which Sen. Cole (the bill’s sponsor) is a Republican nominee, will keep its faults in the public eye.  Brian Jones, president of the Professional Firefighters of West Virginia, expressed fiery confidence about the future:

“This bill is absolutely terrible for a state that was built on the backs of labor.  The fight’s not over, whatever the outcome is.”

Gubernatorial candidate Jim Justice, a wealthy businessman running as a Democrat although he had been a Republican until 2015, called on the legislature to place the “Right-to-Work” issue into the hands of the voters.  He believes the methods used to push “Right-to-Work” through the legislature are contrary to the interests of the state’s citizens:

“Eliminating the prevailing wage and right to work are issues that are too important to leave in the hands of career politicians in Charleston. So, I want the people to decide.  Washington-style politics have crept into Charleston and created a mess. Instead of the politicians and special interests dividing the state, we should let West Virginians vote on this.”

Also coming out strong against “Right-to-Work” is former West Virginia Governor and current U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who argued against both the bill and the methods by which it was passed:

“During my time as Governor of West Virginia, and now your Senator, I never had a single company tell me that it would relocate to our great state if only we would pass ‘right-to-work’ legislation. Simply put, this is a partisan bill that will do nothing to create jobs in West Virginia. During these tough economic times, we must focus on fighting for every job we have and every potential job we can create, rather than fighting over a divisive political issue being used to divide us, rather than unite us. I find it highly objectionable that people would attempt to play partisan politics with our jobs. The proponents of ‘right-to-work’ legislation are not able to show us the companies that will relocate to our great state if this legislation passes. Instead of engaging in divisive political fights, we should work together to bring successful companies to West Virginia.”

WOWK 13 political reporter Mark Curtis suggests that the lawsuit could delay the bill enough for momentum to swing back in labor’s favor:

“One legal option is that when Right-to-Work becomes law, the Teamsters could file for an injunction in court, to try to stop the law from being implemented, until legal questions can be answered.

It seems that the Teamsters will do just that, and “Right-to-Work” will enjoy one last wave of opposition before being heavy handedly thrust upon West Virginia workers.


2 Comments on “Teamsters File Lawsuit Against WV “Right-to-Work” Law, Say Lawmakers Have Something to Hide”

  1. Go teamsters!!!!!!!!!

  2. I call for the IBEW to join the fight…,….

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