West Virginia unions peacefully protested a recent push by Republican lawmakers hoping to enact right-to-work laws at the state capitol Wednesday.
The Republican majority has made right-to-work a priority since securing the legislature in November 2014. The policy, which has passed in 25 states, outlaws mandatory union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Critics say the policy is not economically beneficial.
“Instead would be harmful to West Virginia working families, but the rhetoric from the other side has been strong,” West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue said in a press release Wednesday. “We thought it was time West Virginians hear from working people who have experienced the damage Right to Work causes.”
The state AFL-CIO has been at the forefront of opposing the policy. It claimed in a recent radio ad that right-to-work will cause a 54 percent increase in workplace injury and can lower wages as much as $6,000 per year. Republican leadership believes the policy will help reverse the severe economic trouble the state experienced during the nearly 80 years of previous Democratic control.
“Less than half of West Virginians have a job,” Jason Huffman, state director of Americans for Prosperity, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We need bold reforms from our lawmakers to bring opportunity to all West Virginians. Union bosses are spreading misinformation so they can continue to profit from workers.”
The state legislature commissioned West Virginia University to examine the policy. The school released a study in November disputing some of the union claims. Looking at how the policy has impacted other states over the decades, it found there was no empirical evidence to support the policy driving down wages.
“Right to work ensures that no worker can be fired for refusing to pay a union, giving workers more freedom and providing myriad economic benefits for all West Virginians,” Huffman continued. “Big labor will stop at nothing to retain their automatic access to our workers’ paychecks, but lawmakers need to see through the mud-slinging and keep the promise of more jobs by supporting right-to-work.”
Republican lawmakers are also experiencing an internal problem threatening the policy. Republican Sen. Daniel Hall resigned from his seat earlier this month, putting the party majority in dispute. Hall helped the Republicans take the majority in the Senate when he switched parties in 2014, according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
The issue is whether a Republican or Democrat should take his spot. The West Virginia Democratic Party asserts his seat should be replaced with someone in their party since he was elected as a Democrat. The party is asking the Supreme Court of Appeals in the state to look into the matter.
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