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West Virginia High Court Hears Right to Work Case

The State Supreme Court will rule on the state's 2016 Right to Work law

Kris LaGrange's picture
Jan 13, 2020

Repealing Right to Work will get it’s final day in court this week in West Virginia. The long-running case, Patrick Morrisey, Attorney General v. WV AFL-CIO and others., seeks to overturn the Workplace Freedom Act of 2016, which brought Right to Work to the state.

When West Virginia passed the law, they became the 27th Right to Work state. Although it was vetoed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, the legislature overrode his veto. That decision to override the veto led to a challenge in court. Since the law was passed, the WV AFL-CIO,  Teamsters, WV State Building Trades sued to stop it. In August of 2016, a preliminary injunction was announced stopping the implementation of the law. Then in February of 2017, Chief Judge Jennifer Bailey decided in favor of the unions essentially striking down Right to Work. Of course, that decision was appealed by Morrisey so the case will now head to the State Supreme Court where it will be argued on Wednesday, January 15th.

Since the Janus decision, unions are arguing that the law blocks their ability to be compensated for services such as contract negotiation if workers choose not to join. “They have no quarrel with the ability of collective bargaining unit; that is within their right,” lawyers for the unions wrote. “Rather, what the plaintiffs object to is the Act’s prohibition on the unions’ assessments for services provided to those non-members.”

The case will be closely watched by union leaders and members. The State Supreme Court has already ruled against unions once, back in 2017 when they ordered the temporary injunction to be lifted before Chief Judge Bailey made her decision. At the time the court said that unions were unlikely to succeed long-term in overturning Right to Work. Although there have been changes to the court since then, that is an ominous message to remember as the WV AFL-CIO prepares for arguments on Wednesday.

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