Mountain State union lawyers’ legal challenge seeks to re-impose Big Labor’s power to have workers fired for refusing to pay union dues or fees
Charleston, WV (June 20, 2019) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have just filed an amicus brief urging the West Virginia Supreme Court to uphold the state’s popular Right to Work law in a case challenging that law brought by a coalition of unions. The brief is being submitted on behalf of West Virginia employee Donna Harper, who works as a laundry aide and nursing assistant at the Genesis HealthCare Tygert Center in Fairmont, West Virginia. The West Virginia-based Cardinal Institute and Americans For Prosperity are also listed along with the National Right to Work Foundation on the brief submitted to the West Virginia Supreme Court.
Harper’s brief was filed to defend her rights, as without the protection of West Virginia’s Right to Work law she could be fired solely for refusing to fund union activities. Under Right to Work union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary, whereas without such protections union officials can order a worker fired simply for refusing to pay union dues or fees. Because the workplace where Harper works is under Chauffeurs, Teamsters and Helpers Local Union No. 175 monopoly representation, elimination of her Right to Work protections would result in her being fired for refusing to financially support the union’s agenda.
West Virginia’s Right to Work law was passed in February 2016 when West Virginia legislators overrode then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto, making West Virginia the 26th Right to Work state. There are currently 27 states with Right to Work laws. Additionally, all public employees have Right to Work protections under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, which was briefed and argued by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
In 2016 lawyers for several state unions brought the case, now called West Virginia AFL-CIO, et al. v. Governor James C. Justice, et al., attempting to overturn the popular law. Polling consistently shows that Americans back Right to Work laws. A scientific survey also found that eighty percent of union members supported the Right to Work principle that union membership and dues payment should be voluntary and not required as a condition of employment.
Harper’s brief responds to the legally dubious arguments that were made by union lawyers, and accepted by Judge Jennifer Bailey of the Kanawha County Circuit Court. Similar arguments to the union lawyers’ primary arguments in this case for why the Right to Work protections for workers should be overturned have already been rejected by a Federal Court of Appeals and the Indiana Supreme Court when they were raised in cases involving Indiana’s Right to Work law. Furthermore, the brief points out that the Kanawha County Circuit Court decision ignores nearly 70 years of legal precedent upholding the constitutionality of state Right to Work laws, including U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
“Big Labor bosses are waging this protracted legal battle to return The Mountain State to a time when millions of dollars in workers’ money were forcibly shunted off to serve their own priorities,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Right to Work laws simply put individual freedom back at the center of a state’s labor laws, and all American workers deserve that freedom.”
The National Right to Work Foundation has a long history of successfully defending Right to Work laws in state and federal court. In addition to West Virginia, Foundation staff attorneys have taken legal action to defend and enforce new Right to Work laws in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kentucky, all of which have passed Right to Work protections for employees since 2012.
Earlier this year National Right to Work Foundation won a settlement for a West Virginia worker who was illegally threatened by United Steelworkers after she resigned her membership, the first step towards exercising her rights under the Right to Work law. Foundation staff attorneys previously filed an amicus brief with the West Virginia Supreme Court in 2017, on behalf of another pro-Right to Work Mountain State worker, which led the court to overturn an injunction by a lower court judge so the law could go into effect.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.