When West Virginia’s so-called right-to-work law takes effect in May, the majority of states will have laws designed to strip labor unions of their collective bargaining rights.
West Virginia Republican lawmakers in February overrode Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s (D) veto of SB 1, which prohibits employers from requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of their employment.
Opponents of “right-to-work” policies argue that they allow workers who are not union members—known as free riders—to benefit from the union’s bargaining without having to contribute financially.
Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) said during floor debate before the veto override vote that the legislation was an attack on people who work and their families.
“Some would say this is a historic day for West Virginia,” Kessler said, reported the Gazette-Mail. “I submit to you that it is a horrific day. This is not based on any empirical evidence; this is based on a political attack upon unions, upon workers, upon families, upon our communities.”
West Virginia joins Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin as states that have passed laws targeting labor unions in recent years.
Anti-union laws have been pushed by legislation mills like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and lawmakers have introduced bills based on copycat legislation drafted by ALEC.
Legislators who push “right-to-work” measures charge that people who work shouldn’t have to pay labor union dues.
However, these laws have had negative effects on wages, income, access to health care, and other measures of quality of life for people who work in states that have seen legislators attack collective bargaining.
People who work in states with anti-union “right-to-work” measures make on average $5,971 (12.2 percent) less annually than workers in states without those laws, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Almost 26 percent of jobs in so-called right-to-work states are in low-wage occupations, compared with 18 percent of jobs in other states, according to the Corporation for Enterprise Development.
The National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency overseeing labor laws, announced last year that it would take a closer look at laws from across the country designed to curtail collective bargaining.