On February 12, 2016, West Virginia became the 26th state to pass a “right to work” law. While Governor Earl Ray Tomblin initially vetoed the “West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act,” both the Senate and the House of Delegates voted to override his veto.
Without “right to work” laws, employees who are covered under a collective bargaining agreement but are not members of a union are required to pay a portion of union dues, which is often referred to as “fair share.” The “fair share” portion is the amount the union spends for bargaining, implementing, and enforcing collective bargaining agreements, which includes representing employees in their disputes with management. Nonmembers cannot be forced to pay the remainder of union dues, which are used to fund a union’s political activities or for the costs associated with organizing employees of other employers.
In “right to work” states, however, workers are free to choose whether to contribute any portion of their paychecks to the union—even “fair share.” The union must still represent members and nonmembers alike, but nonmembers cannot be compelled to pay any portion of union dues.
The West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act was heavily debated during this legislative session, with both sides promising changes to the West Virginia employment landscape if the bill became law. While the bill’s detractors claimed its passage could result in lower wages, proponents of the bill asserted it will promote industry and job growth in the state and protect worker freedom.
With the law taking effect on July 1, 2016, employers across the state are now trying to figure out how “right to work” will affect their interactions with unions. If you have any questions about how right to work will impact your business, contact Jackson Kelly for further information.
This article was authored by Jennelle Arthur, Jackson Kelly PLLC.