More than half the states in the United States soon will be “right-to-work” states. Laws in these states give workers in union shops the option to not pay union dues.
On July 1, 2016, West Virginia will become the 26th state to prohibit companies, among other things, from requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment. The law, passed on February 4, was vetoed by Democratic governor Earl Ray Tomblin, but the veto was overturned by the West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate. Previously, the state’s law permitted agreements requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment. The National Labor Relations Act specifically allows states to pass right-to-work laws.
The new law prohibits: any requirement that a person become or remain a member of a labor organization as a condition of employment; any requirement that a person pay dues or other fees to a labor organization as a condition of employment; and any requirement that a person contribute to a charity in lieu of paying dues or other fees to a labor organization.
Proponents of the new enactment said it was a necessary step to improving West Virginia’s economy. Unemployment in West Virginia was among the highest in the nation in December 2015, at 6.3 percent, while the nation’s rate stood at 5.0 percent.
West Virginia follows Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin as the most recent states to enact right-to-work legislation.
The Legislature also eliminated the state’s 81-year-old “prevailing wage” law (under which inflated, rather than market-driven, government-determined wages were paid for public projects), a measure the Governor had vetoed as well.