West Virginia unions sue state for attacking unionized workers
West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston | AP

CHARLESTON, W. VA.—In yet another battle seeing unions defending their members and themselves against continued right-wing assaults from coast to coast, West Virginia unions sued the GOP-dominated state government there for illegal retaliation against unionized workers by banning automatic dues collection from those workers’ paychecks.

The suit, led by the state AFL-CIO, says HB2009, the so-called “paycheck protection” act, violates due process and the state constitution. It’s also retaliation from right-wing GOP Gov. Jim Justice, who is a billionaire and the state’s wealthiest person.

“Paycheck Protection,” which unionists call “paycheck deception,” is one of a horde of anti-worker anti-union measures enacted in Republican-run states. Many of them are designed to, as one right-wing leader once told the British press to “defund the left.”

And many, including paycheck protection, were also crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a secretive cabal of corporate interests and radical right legislators, who meet to scheme ways to impose their agenda on the rest of the U.S.

The suit, filed May 20 in Kanawha County Circuit Court in the state capital, Charleston, says the law “selectively prohibits the long-standing”—50-year—”practice and contractual rights of public employees and their employers to have dues automatically deducted.”

Banning the deductions also violates free speech rights under the state constitution, the suit says. It is a “legislative animus” against unions from the heavily GOP state House and Senate drove HB2009.

The ban also makes no sense in the workplaces both statewide and in its 55 counties, school boards, and other unionized public agencies, such as fire departments.

“This cooperative practice” of automatic dues deductions “reached by verbal or written agreement” between unions and agencies “demonstrates the collaborative relationship” between the two. It’s “designed to promote workplace harmony and industrial peace, which benefits employer and employee alike.”

The law “selectively and discriminately prohibits paycheck deductions for public employees and their unions, a practice that has gone on for more than 50 years without a problem, while still allowing hundreds of other paycheck deductions to remain in place,” state AFL-CIO President Josh Sword said in a statement.

“This is still America, and we should not have our freedom attacked and we think this is an attack on our freedoms to spend our money how we want to spend it,” added American Federation of Teachers-WV President Fred Albert.

Besides the state fed and the Teachers, other unions suing the state in general and Justice, in particular, are the Mine Workers, Communications Workers District 2-13 and also Locals 2055, 2019—which represents state troopers–and 2001, the West Virginia Fire Fighters, the West Virginia Education Association, the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association and Steelworkers District 8.  Local 2055 represents corrections officers. The state Federation of Police, which is not a union, also signed on.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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