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W.Va. judge strikes down key portions of right-to-work law

By JOHN RABYFebruary 28, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A judge on Wednesday sided with labor unions in striking down key portions of West Virginia’s so-called right-to-work law, including those that allowed workers to stop paying union dues.

Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey made the ruling in a lawsuit filed by the state chapter of the AFL-CIO and other unions. The judge said some provisions of the 2016 law violated the state constitution.

Labor unions maintained the law illegally took their assets since they still have to represent all employees in a union shop, including those that the law would allow to stop paying union dues.

Bailey struck down provisions that would authorize union employees to stop paying dues and fees or, in lieu of that, make payments to a charity or third party.

The new law would have required unions and union officials “to work, to supply their valuable expertise, and to provide expensive services for nothing,” Bailey wrote.

After the Republican-led Legislature crafted the bill, then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, vetoed it and lawmakers overrode the veto the next day, making West Virginia the 26th “right-to-work” state.

Proponents said it would attract businesses and give workers more freedom over their ties to unions. Democrats said the law was solely meant to undercut unions for political reasons, allowing workers to benefit from union representation without paying dues. Democrats also argued the economic benefits were unproven and wages would drop.

The law “was nothing more than an attack on our wages, benefits and working conditions,” Teamsters General Secretary Ken Hall said in a statement.

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 of the rights of West Virginia workers — and we simply won’t stand for that.”

Curtis Johnson, a spokesman for West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, said Morrisey’s office is reviewing the circuit court’s decision.

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