West Virginia Court Blocks “Right-to-Work” Law, Restricts Worker Choice

As I recently wrote in the Washington Times, right-to-work laws are under attack from union lawsuits. Now, workers in the state to have most recently enacted right to work, West Virginia, have lost their freedom to choose whether or not to financially support a union without risk of penalty.

On August 10, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that a Kanawha County circuit judge had issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of West Virginia’s right-to-work law.  

Unsurprisingly, the union filing suit against the law is trotting out the same bogus argument that they used in Indiana and Wisconsin: giving workers a choice in how they spend their hard earned money is somehow an illegal taking of union property.

As I wrote in a previous blog post:

Right to work is not an unconstitutional taking because unions choose to become exclusive representatives. The duty of fair representation is one that unions impose on themselves. Private-sector unions may act as members-only unions and choose not to represent non-members.

In addition, unions receive something of value as exclusive representatives—employers are forced to bargain with them. So even if a union that acts as an exclusive representative were required to represent non-members, the law gives them something of value for doing so. 

The illegal taking argument did not pass the smell test in Indiana and shouldn’t in West Virginia. However, efforts to undermine right-to-work laws by unions and federal labor agencies are not going away anytime soon.

But that is what makes coalition campaigns like National Employee Freedom Week so important. Starting on August 14, the coalition kicks off the fourth annual effort to educate workers on their right to opt-out of paying full-fledged union dues in states without right-to-work laws. This year 102 groups, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, will take part in getting out the word to union members that they may become agency fee payers or conscientious objectors and not pay full union dues.

Many workers do not know they have this right, mainly because unions bury the opt-out provision deep in long collective bargaining agreements and only give workers a week or two to exercise their right to become an agency fee payer.

With right-to-work laws potentially at risk, it is more important than ever that workers in forced unionism states are aware of their alternatives.

See more on National Employee Freedom Week here, here and here.