Senators Vote to Remove Wage Protections for 'Vulnerable' Industries
West Virginia Senators have approved a bill to dismantle the wage bonding requirement for certain industries in the state.
Members voted 21-12 Monday morning after some debate on the chamber floor.
Senate Bill 224 removes a decades-old requirement for employers in the construction and mineral extraction industries to put up a wage bond.
Wage bonds are money an employer pays to the state to cover the cost of employee wages and benefits for a month should the business close. They’re a security for workers and have to be funded by the company for its first five years in operation.
Three of West Virginia’s bordering states—Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia—do not require a wage bond, but Putnam County Democratic Sen. Glen Jeffries told his fellow Senators those states don’t rely on extraction industries like West Virginia and Kentucky do.
Jeffries-- who owns his own construction company and opposed the bill-- said he wishes the state could expand the bonding requirement to every industry.
"But we don’t need to because the other businesses," he said, "because they’re not as vulnerable as what construction and mining is.”
While Democratic opposition remained focused on the implications for workers, Republicans focused on businesses, including Sen. Jeff Mullens from Raleigh County.
Mullens said on the chamber floor that potential business owners must have impeccable credit to have the wage bonds covered by creditors like banks, otherwise they have to find sometimes tens of thousands of dollars up front to cover the cost.
"This helps the little guy. The guy that wants to start a little construction company to build houses. The guy that’s just barely getting by and [doesn't] have the money to put up a wage bond," Mullens said. "The wage bond helps people that have money. It doesn’t help the little guy.”
Senators approved the bill, 21-12, on a party-line vote, with one member of the chamber absent.
The bill now goes to the House of Delegates for further debate.