The West Virginia State Legislature wasted no time in giving the back of their hand to their working class constituents by introducing so-called Right-to Work legislation under Senate Bill 1. Yes, that’s right, the number one priority of Republican legislators in West Virginia was a direct attack on workplace democracy. The bill later passed the House of Delegates but was vetoed by Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. The Governor, through his veto, lived up to his oath of office by protecting the interests of the working men and women of West Virginia. Unfortunately, because a simple majority is all that is needed in West Virginia to override the Governor’s veto, the Republican legislature overrode that veto on February 12. This all comes after Right-to-Work legislation failed to pass in 2015.
Attack on freedom
This ramming through of Senate Bill 1, referred to as “The Workplace Freedom Act” is, in fact, a direct attack on workplace freedom. Right wing conservatives constantly preach about government interference in our lives. But, that is exactly what Right-to-Work laws do. They interfere with the right of workers to have majority rule in the workplace, and enter into a mutually agreed upon contract between their democratically formed union, and their employer. Those contracts don’t require employees to join the union; they simply require those employees to pay a service fee for the wages, benefits and job security negotiated by the union.
That fee requirement is in keeping with the principle of not living off of someone else’s dime when you have the means to pay your fair share. In the case of taxes, there is no ability to opt out. Whether or not you use our public schools, roads, or bridges, everyone must pay their fair share for the greater good of all. In a unionized workplace, the argument of paying your fair share is even more compelling because there is no worker that doesn’t directly benefit from a collective bargaining contract.
Proponents of Right-to-Work, such as West Virginia Senate President Bill Cole, have made the hollow argument that Right-to-Work will bring jobs to West Virginia. But, according to reporting by the Charleston Gazette, while the push was on for Senate Bill 1, Mr. Cole found the need to attend an event in Palm Springs that was organized by a non-profit group known as Freedom Partners Chamber of commerce that is affiliated with the Koch brothers. The event is an annual gathering of 500 mega-donors that requires a membership fee of $100,000.No free ride here, except maybe for Senate President Cole who has declared his candidacy for Governor of West Virginia. While speaking at the event, he specifically addressed his Right-to-Work legislation.
The Koch brothers and their political network have pledged to spend nearly $900 million ahead of the 2016 elections, more than the Republican and Democratic National Committees combined spent on the 2012 elections.
We are fighting back
As union members, we all know the economic benefits of being in a unionized workforce. We know that Right-to-Work laws are a clear attempt to weaken unions, and thereby increase the profits of corporate bosses like the Koch brothers who line the pockets of their legislators in exchange for their servitude.
The only way to stop this attack on the working class is to be active in electing legislators whose loyalty is with the working men and women who elect them.