Brushing aside worker protests that brought several thousand people into the streets and jammed its Capitol building, the Republican-run West Virginia Senate today approved a so-called “right to work” law. The GOP-run House appeared poised to agree to it. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) vowed to veto the measure, but the GOP only needs simple majorities in each house to override him.
Activists jammed the state capitol, holding signs that said “Not in my state” and “Right to work is wrong.” Speakers – including West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Mine Workers Vice President John Duffy and the presidents of both U.S. teachers unions – urged them on.
“Right to work is “pushed by out-of-state interests that have a complete disregard for our local economy, our rights, and the health and safety of the average West Virginian,” Perdue said. Proving his point, Americans for Prosperity, a front group of the radical Right Wing Koch brothers, led a multi-million dollar campaign for RTW, and crowed over its success.
And West Virginia’s ruling Republicans made the RTW bill – which workers and their allies call “right-to-work-for-less” – the first measure introduced in the Senate in January.
“Instead of listening to hardworking men and women that live, work, and vote in West Virginia, the legislature instead chose to bow to pressure from outside special interest groups backed by the infamous, billionaire Koch brothers,” said Mark Federici, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400. “As a union with members in ‘right-to-work’ states, we know all too well the harm of this anti-worker legislation. Just over the mountains in Virginia, our members already suffer the everyday consequences of ‘right to work’ legislation. Our members in Virginia earn as much as $2 less per hour, pay up to five times more out-of-pocket for benefits, and earn up to one week less vacation each year than their brothers and sisters in West Virginia – even working for the same company, doing the same job, with the same experience. The difference? Virginia is a ‘right-to-work’ state.” click below to read more
“I heard someone say they don’t think it’s going to affect wages. Well, what else is it going to affect?” House Minority Leader Mike Caputo (D), who is a Mine Workers district vice president, said of prevailing wage repeal. “I never thought I would see the day we would be debating an issue that is going to take money out of the pockets of working West Virginians.”
“What some are calling ‘Right to Work’ is a proposed law that sounds great, but in reality is deeply controversial, confusing and would cost West Virginia families on average $5,000 a year,” the state AFL-CIO said. “This law has been pushed on our state by out-of-state millionaires and billionaires who are trying to make more money off of our families.”
Right to work lets all workers – union and non-union – in an union-represented shop refuse to pay dues, or even lesser “agency fees” for the union’s services, the state fed said. But the union still must serve all of them, even defending non-payers against unjust bosses.
“This bill has nothing to do with ‘workplace freedom’ and everything to do with diminishing the power of working people to negotiate for a better life,” said Local 400's Federici. “The bottom line is ‘right to work’ will make it much more difficult for hardworking men and women to earn better wages, secure family-supporting benefits, or ensure proper safety in the workplace.”
The state’s most-popular politician, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D), a former governor who may seek the office again, also blasted right-to- work. “I never had a single company tell me that it would relocate to our great state if only we would pass ‘right-to-work’ legislation. Simply put, this is a partisan bill that will do nothing to create jobs in West Virginia,” he said.
Press Associates, Inc. (PAI) – 2/5/2016