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Judge Sides with WV Unions, Issues Injunction Blocking State’s New Right-to-Work Law

WV's winter-long Right-to-work fight made for some iconic protest images

WV’s winter-long Right-to-work fight made for some iconic protest images

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Six months ago West Virginia became a Right-to-work state. This week organized labor got its day in court.

The AFL-CIO and 10 other union groups successfully sought an injunction to block the state’s Right-to-work law, which took effect on July 1. The law required unions to extend benefits to all workers, even those who did not pay dues. The unions argued that this was an unfair taking of property and resources:

“The fact that our members will have to pay for representation for people who choose not to join the union or drop out of the union is just an unfair taking of their property,”  said Ken Hall, General Secretary Treasurer of the Teamsters Union.

[…] Union leaders claim the measure would be a death knell to collective bargaining because unions are bound by the National Labor Relations Act.  Hall pointed out Section 9-A of the Act required  the union to represent all employees in a shop, even those who choose not to join the union.  Conversely, he added, the company has no obligation to recognize the partial union as a bargaining unit for  those workers who chose to join.

The Kanawha County circuit judge said the unions did enough to prove that the law could hurt workers:

Judge Jennifer Bailey said that until legal questions about the law can be resolved, enforcement of it could cause irreparable harm to unions and union workers.

“I think when people are facing the possibility of criminal charges and civil damages, both of which are provided for in this law, it is quite serious,” she said.

West Virginians originally found the legislation attractive because they thought it would attract jobs to their state, Metro News writes, but there has been little movement on that front since the measure passed:

“People were told by the proponents of this bill companies were waiting at the border to come to West Virginia,” said Hall. “Now it’s been six months and the only thing that has been crossing the border have been jobs going out of Roane County and up in Wheeling.”

Labor groups in Wisconsin successfully challenged their own Right-to-work law using a similar argument — read more about the “Takings clause” argument here — but that injunction was quickly lifted.

State representatives vowed to appeal the injunction. No date has been set for the next hearing.


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