CHARLESTON – Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey issued a preliminary injunction, which will block enforcement of West Virginia’s recent right to work law.
Bailey said she was issuing the injunction until legal questions about the law could be resolved because enforcement could cause irreparable harm to unions and union workers.
"It's disappointing that the Court has taken the extraordinary step of enjoining a duly enacted law that is consistent with those of 25 other workplace freedom states,” said West Virginia Senate President and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole. “However, we are confident that the Supreme Court of Appeals will find this law to be legally sound, and this injunction will only temporarily delay providing all West Virginians the freedom of choice in the workplace."
One issue the unions stressed in the new law was that the law allows workers in union shops to opt out of paying union dues.
Ken Hall, president of Teamsters Local 175, in South Charleston, and secretary-treasurer of Teamsters International, testified that members of Local 175 would end up paying an extra $172 in union dues to cover union services provided to so-called free-riders, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
That includes costs of contract negotiations and representing workers in employee grievances and disciplinary hearings.
Bailey ruled that the injunction should be granted pending a full review of the merit of the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the “Workplace Freedom Act” filed by labor unions across West Virginia.
“We applaud Judge Bailey’s ruling. This legislation deserves careful consideration by the court. The language of the bill–as it was written, amended and enacted into law–has significant issues that are in violation of the West Virginia Constitution,” Hall said.
The Teamsters and the West Virginia AFL-CIO, along with several other labor unions across the state, filed petitions in Kanawha County Circuit Court challenging the Workplace Freedom Act on June 27, contending that the right-to-work law is intended to discourage union membership by “enabling nonmembers of unions to get union services for free”— an illegal taking of union property and resources.
“The Workplace Freedom Act will not bring freedom to the workplace, as the name deceitfully suggests,” Hall said. “Rather, it will deny hardworking West Virginians the rights and protections they need to survive,”
Hall said if this becomes the law of the land, it will not only be in violation of the state’s very own constitution—it will cause workers’ wages to go down and workplace injuries to go up.
“This legislation is unconstitutional, unethical and unacceptable for West Virginia,” he said.
Bailey said she saw no harm to the state in enjoining the law pending review.