Right-to-Work One Step Closer to Becoming Law in W.Va.

Jan 21, 2016

West Virginia is one step closer to becoming the 26th state with a Right-to-Work law after a vote in the state Senate today. Senators approved the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act on a vote of 17  to 16, on party lines.

The proposed Right-to-Work law makes it illegal for collective bargaining agreements in the state to require workers in a union workplace to be a member of that union or pay union dues or fees. 

It is currently illegal under federal law to fire a worker for either joining or refusing to join a union, but nonunion members in union workplaces do have to pay fees for the representation they receive in contract negotiations. This bill would make the required payment of those fees illegal in West Virginia.   

Senate President Bill Cole had to repeatedly ask members of the audience to refrain from cheering or expressing distaste with the floor speeches given by members during the nearly two hours of debate. 

The bill will now be sent to the House of Delegates for further consideration. 

Floor speeches from the debate on the Right-to-Work Bill included: 

Sen. Charles Trump:

“Before discussing precisely what the bill does, let me tell you what this bill does not do. This bill does not in any way prohibit collective bargaining. This bill does not, does not prevent any person from joining a union if he or she chooses to do so. It preserves, and it expressly preserves, that freedom. The bill does not and would not affect any existing collective bargaining agreements. What this bill does do is simply enshrine into law, into the law of our state a fundamental principle of freedom. The freedom that a person may not be compelled to join a union or to pay dues to a union as a condition of having a job.”

Sen. Herb Snyder:

“The chairman said, that the WVU, pristine university, that that report said there will be an uptick in the economy and there will be a lowering of unemployment. Wow, that sounds great to me. You’ve got my attention, but I’m going to tell you the whole truth. The whole truth is that report said that uptick, lowering unemployment and increasing the possibility that we will grow in West Virginia, that we will grow our economy is four tenths of one percent. Less than half a percent uptick.  The downside in that report, in that report and we had many speakers from a different vantage that all agreed, that when other states went to right to work, their state’s overall pool of wages went down 17 percent. With the possibility of less than half a percent growth, these reports all say the likelihood that our state’s wages will go down 17 percent. That’s for your children. That’s for your grandchildren.”

Sen. Ron Miller:

“What are we saying if we pass this legislation? We’re saying that all of the problems of the state of West Virginia, without us taking any blame for it, all of the problems in the state of West Virignia are on the backs of working men and women because it is their fault we’re having this issue. This bothers me more than anything, we’re going to pass this legislation today without even a full body of members here to address this issue. Every district has two Senators except the 9th district here today. Every district has two members here to address this issue. It’s unfair to the people of the 9th District, and I contend that it’s unfair for the Senator from Raleigh County to be the only one to speak for 109,000 people. I don’t know how the court rules. I can’t take care of that, but it’s unfair that we push this through today with newspeak what we’re wanting to pay people, what we’re wanting to do to people and we’re not all even here to do it.”

Sen. Greg Boso:

“But the one thing that I’ve not heard discussed thus far is a word that I’ve heard as I’ve travelled through my district and as I’ve had conversation with people back home and that’s hope. Our people right now are struggling because they feel there is no hope. Our kids feel like there is no hope because there are no jobs. With the decline in our mining industry, the situation that we’re having in the northern oil and gas fields, we just have to look around throughout West Virginia, businesses are closing. Why? Because they feel there is no hope. It’s time for change. Change means that we have to leave the direction that we’ve been going, turn and go a different direction. Change is hard. I will tell you as I look around this gallery, as I look around the balcony above this gallery, change is hard, but change is necessary. Change is necessary now.”

Sen. Robert Karnes:

“People who support right-to-work, they’re out working. The free riders are right up there. What the unions have done, as it relates back to newspeak, is the UAW forced members of the UAW to support Planned Parenthood even though many of their members are Christian people who are opposed to that issue. What we saw in Wisconsin whenever they recently passed Right-to-Work, was a reduction in union membership, but what does that represent? That represents people who were tired of being misrepresented by the union so they dropped out. Now, that doesn’t mean that they destroyed the union. Unions still exist in Wisconsin and in some states, for example, the fastest growing union membership in the country is Indiana which is a right-to-work state. So right-to-work doesn’t kill unions, but what it does is force unions to represent the members in a real way and not in a contrived way.”

Sen. Doug Facemire:

“You know back home in the country where I come from there’s a saying that says a lie well told and stuck to is better than the truth. That’s what just heard. As members of this body, shame on any one of us who disrespects the people who come down here to represent the things that are near and dear to their heart and I want to apologize to every one of you for that. Now look, whenever we start trying to get political gains off the backs of the people that are only guilty of one thing, trying to go to work, make a living and do the right thing, shame on us. We’ve lost our purpose of being here. Our purpose of being here is to represent everybody, to try to give everybody a better lifestyle and life, and what we’re witnessing here today is the dismantling of the working class of this state and these United States and I certainly apologize to you people for that.” 

Sen. Mitch Carmichael:

“At the end of the day, as the Chairman of Judiciary began the comments, this does not prevent anyone from joining a union. Does not prevent anyone from joining a union. It does not prevent anyone from paying union dues. It does not outlaw collective bargaining. What is the problem with this bill? You’ve got evidence, PhD economists that say it will create jobs, improve income, not reduce wages and create more state product for West Virginia versus opinions that say might hurt, could be scary. What we’re doing now is not working. It’s been said over and over and over, what we are doing now does not work. We’re last.”