On April 21,2020, the West Virginia Supreme Court unanimously upheld the state’s Right to Work protections, which prevents Mountain State workers from being forced to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix made the following comment on the West Virginia Supreme Court’s decision:
“Today’s decision marks a great victory for Mountain State employees. The West Virginia Supreme Court rejected outrageous arguments from union lawyers that union hierarchies have a ‘right’ to extort money from workers forced to accept their so-called ‘representation,’ and in doing so protected the right of rank-and-file workers to freely choose whether or not to financially support a union. The court drew from a wide base of well-reasoned precedent for this conclusion, including the Foundation-won Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision.
Sustaining Right to Work ensures that employees across the state, including the workers whom the Foundation filed briefs for in this case, can rest assured that they cannot be fired for refusing to subsidize the agendas of union officials that they disapprove of, while permitting employees to financially support unions if they choose to.”
Justice Evan Jenkins wrote for the majority in the decision that Right to Work “does not violate constitutional rights of association, property, or liberty” and that states are “expressly authorized under federal law” to ban union bosses from imposing dues or fees as a condition of employment. Four of the five justices also reached the conclusion that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which Foundation staff attorneys participated in and ultimately came out victorious in, required them to maintain the law.
After the West Virginia Legislature overrode Governor Tomblin’s veto of the law and became the 26th Right to Work state on February 4, 2016, the National Right to Work Foundation announced offers to provide legal aid to workers who still don’t have their Right to Work liberties protected. Additionally, the Foundation also created a special task force to defend the West Virginia law, which became effective on July 1, 2016.
Later in 2016, lawyers for several state unions put forward a case called West Virginia AFL-CIO, et al. v. Governor James C. Justice, et al. in an attempt to take down the popular law. Polling has repeatedly shown that Americans support Right to Work laws. A survey also revealed that eighty percent of union members supported the Right to Work principle that union membership and dues payment should be voluntary and not function as a condition of employment.
On February 23, 2017, Judge Jennifer Bailey of the Kanawha County Circuit Court granted a preliminary injunction on the law on February 23, 2017 at the request of union lawyers. The union lawyers’ used arguments from previous cases that were rejected by a Federal Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court, and also ran against almost 70 years of legal precedent protecting the constitutionality of state Right to Work laws, which includes U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Said case was appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court by state attorneys. Foundation staff attorneys filed 10 legal briefs for workers whose rights would have been on the chopping block if the law was overturned, including Reginald Gibbs, an employee of the Greenbrier Hotel and Casino, and Donna Harper, a nursing assistant at the Genesis HealthCare Tygart Center.
This recent case is one of the latest legal battles the Foundation has fought over the years to defend Right to Work laws in state and federal court from Big Labor attacks. On top of West Virginia, Foundation staff attorneys have won legal cases in recent years to uphold and enforce newly passed Right to Work laws in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Kentucky. All of these states have passed Right to Work laws since 2012. For example, Foundation staff attorneys have provided legal counsel to employees in over 100 cases since Right to Work was implemented in Michigan in early 2013.