CHARLESTON – It’s been a long time since The West Virginia Record really nailed an editorial, but last week it did — although probably not in the way that was intended.
The editorial was critical of the challenges made by me and others to proposed legislation that will eliminate important consumer and workplace safety laws. It was the usual nonsense that you find in The Record’s editorials, but then there it was in black and white: the proposals are “good for the rest of us.” Finally some truth from The Record! It admitted that the proposals are “good for the rest of us.”
In the case of the The Record, however, “us” doesn’t mean “West Virginians.” West Virginians believe that our constitutional rights should be protected. West Virginians believe in personal responsibility and accountability. The legislative proposals supported by The Record do neither. The proposed bills restrict our 7th Amendment rights. They give immunity to corporations that risk the lives and safety of their workers. They restrict your ability to hold multibillion-dollar nursing homes and pharmacies accountable when a loved one is injured or killed. They take away bipartisan consumer protections that were passed more 40 years ago to protect consumers and small businesses from fraud.
The list goes on and on. These proposals don’t serve our West Virginia values.
In the case of the The Record, “us” means the U. S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform and the corporate special interests that fund ILR and similar entities. Despite claims that The Record is supposed to be an independent legal newspaper, it’s not. It is owned by the ILR, an entity that exists to systematically destroy our tort system. Editorials in The Record are nothing more than a propaganda mouthpiece for the corporate special interests behind it.
Of course, the proposed legislation is “good for [them]” because when the proposed bills eliminate corporate accountability and restrict the ability for West Virginians to be compensated for their losses, their corporate profits will go up. Meanwhile, West Virginia consumers, workers and small businesses pay the price in uncompensated injuries and more dangerous products, workplaces, and healthcare facilities.
Record readers should also thank The Record’s editors for shedding light on the corporate legislative strategy. West Virginians do not support the Chamber’s legislation that restricts their 7th Amendment rights and eliminates important laws that protect our consumers, workers and small businesses. West Virginians do not support legislation that eliminates corporate accountability and prevents those harmed physically and financially from being compensated.
Instead of calling these bills what they really are, corporations camouflage them under “reform.” The Record’s editors have finally come clean. They admit that they renamed their war on the constitutional rights of workers, consumers, families, and small businesses as so-called “reform” because the term “has such a positive connotation.” They are purposely misleading and lying to West Virginians so we will stand aside and let them take away our rights.
To advance this agenda, they’ve hidden behind their corporate-funded front groups like the American Tort Reform Association. (There’s that word again.) They know that a front group with a name like Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse sounds much better than what it really is: Corporations Against Legal Accountability. They’ve hidden millions in super PACs and independent expenditures to buy seats in our legislature for lawmakers who will advance the corporate immunity agenda.
Finally, let’s talk about who really has the wrecking ball. As Americans, there are two places where we are all supposed to be equal — at the ballot box when we vote and in our courtrooms before a jury of our peers. Ordinary people like us have lost our equality at the ballot box because we can’t compete with the secret corporate money in elections.
Contributions from trial lawyers and unions pale in comparison beside these corporate expenditures. That leaves our courtrooms, but the legislation being advanced by these corporate interests and trumpeted in their mouthpiece, The West Virginia Record, is designed to lock us out. The proposed legislation rolls back decades of critical laws that protect West Virginians, our families and our finances. It eliminates your 7th Amendment rights. It makes us less safe. Corporations get immunity, and West Virginia consumers, workers and small businesses get nothing. It’s good for them — The Record, and the multibillion dollar supporters of its owner. It’s certainly not good for the rest of us.
I believe in the Constitution. I believe in corporate responsibility. I believe that West Virginians who are harmed have the right to hold the wrongdoers accountable in our courtrooms and be compensated for their losses. And I believe that the laws that The Record and the multibillion dollar supporters of its owners want passed make our state a more dangerous place.
The "rest of us” want this Legislature to fight the so-called war on coal and fix our State’s real problems — not start a war on workers, consumers, and small businesses.
Majestro is the president of the West Virginia Association for Justice.