CHARLESTON – The National Right to Work Foundation’s offer to provide free legal aid to any employees seeking to assert their rights under a new Right to Work law has drawn interest in West Virginia.
“We have fielded a number of calls from West Virginia workers so far, and I expect many more to come as old grandfathered contracts with forced dues clauses expire and more employees are able to take advantages of the Right to Work protections,” Patrick Semmens, vice president for public information for the foundation, told The West Virginia Record.
West Virginia workers are not the only ones taking advantage of the foundation’s legal aid offer.
“Nationwide, foundation staff attorneys are currently representing thousands of employees in around 200 ongoing cases,” Semmens said.
In addition to the legal aid offer, the foundation also created a special task force to defend the West Virginia law, which went into full effect July 1, from legal challenges from organized labor.
Semmens said the foundation establishes a special legal task forces when a state passes a Right to Work law to inform workers of their new legal rights under the law and offer free legal advice in exercising this rights, as well as to defend the law in court against union lawsuits, which he said are often filed with the goal of stopping or at least delaying workers’ ability to opt out of mandatory union dues.
“This is especially necessary because in our experience, union officials frequently ignore Right to Work protections or attempt to block workers from exercising their rights under the Right to Work law,” Semmens said. “For example, we currently have over 30 cases ongoing in Michigan relating to their new Right to Work law, which took effect in 2013.”
The foundation announced the creation of a special task force in February. When the task force was formed, the foundation said staff attorneys would offer free legal advice and aid to West Virginia workers seeking to exercise their rights to refrain from union membership and union dues payment, which are guaranteed by the Right to Work law.
West Virginia legislators overrode Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto of Right to Work legislation on Feb. 12. Under the law, which the foundation said applies to monopoly bargaining contracts entered into, modified, renewed or extended after July 1, workers will no longer be required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment once any union monopoly bargaining agreement in effect on or before June 30 is modified, renewed or extended.
Recently, the foundation served an amicus curiae brief in defense of West Virginia’s Right to Work law in response to lawsuits filed by 10 state unions that claim that West Virginia’s Right to Work law is different from the other 25 state Right to Work Laws and that Right to Work laws unconstitutionally force union officials to “represent” nonunion employees without compensation
The foundation said in the brief that the National Labor Relations Act compensates unions by granting them immense workplace power to impose a one-size-fits-all union contract on all employees in a union-controlled bargaining unit.