Kanawha circuit judge holds hearing on right-to-work law

By Kyla Asbury | Dec 6, 2016

CHARLESTON – Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey conducted a hearing on whether West Virginia will become a right-to-work state, saying she would consider both sides and suggested they get back to the issue in 2017.

The hearing was held Dec. 2 in Bailey’s courtroom in the Kanawha County Courthouse. Attorneys for West Virginia labor organizations and for state government were in attendance.

West Virginia’s right-to-work law was introduced on the first day of the 2016 legislative session. It passed both houses and was send to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who vetoed it. Both houses overrode the veto and the law went into effect on July 1.

Bailey approved a temporary injunction that was supported by the unions on Aug. 10.

The hearing lasted three hours. Bailey said she needed more time to consider the right-to-work law and suggested scheduling something for mid-January.

“On the motion for summary judgment, what I will need obviously is time to digest the arguments that have been made today, read these cases, consider the interpretations that you all would have me to consider,” Bailey said in the hearing, according to MetroNews.

As attorneys for both sides argued their cases, Bailey asked questions to each.

Prior to the start of the hearing, a motion to intervene was filed by Reginald Gibbs, a slot machine technician at the Greenbrier.

In his motion, Gibbs argued that if the law was overturned or blocked by judicial order, it would force him to pay fees to a union that he does not wish to associate.

Gibbs claimed that it is his right to be free from “compulsory unionism” and, as a worker currently employed at a location with a compulsory unionism agreement, he will suffer from direct harm if the union lawyers win their case.

Gibbs claimed in his motion that even though attorneys for the state are already defending the law in the case, he has a special interest and his attorneys can offer legal arguments that are distinct from those raised by the state’s attorneys.

Mark Mix, the president for the National Right to Work Foundation, said in a press release that “Big Labor’s” latest attack on Right to Work is in a state where there is “overwhelmingly support for the measure.”

“That’s why we’re committed to defend the rights of workers against any attempt to delay or overturn West Virginia’s law making union membership and dues payment strictly voluntary,” Mix said.

The National Right to Work Foundation has already filed two amicus briefs in the matter.

Nix said the lawsuit in West Virginia is similar to cases that are also pending in Wisconsin and Idaho.

“Big Labor’s lawyers are pushing to find any possible loophole they can use to attack worker freedom to protect the union bosses’ forced dues cash flow,” Mix said.

West Virginia was the 26th state to pass a right-to-work law.

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