CHARLESTON—The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has filed an amicus curiae brief asking Kanawha Circuit Court to deny an order filed by union officials in the state's right-to-work lawsuit.
The foundation believes the union officials' motion would circumvent and undermine the protections afforded to workers by West Virginia’s right-to-work law.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation vice present Patrick Semmens said the foundation believes strongly that the correct legal outcome is for the judge to reject the union's request.
"Not only is there no legal justification for union officials to be allowed to evade West Virginia’s right-to-work law on the basis of an injunction that the West Virginia Supreme Court rejected and ruled should never have been granted, but further we believe this court does not even have the authority to rule on the unions’ claims in the motion," Semmens said.
West Virginia has dealt with much turmoil over the right-to-work law since it was passed in February 2016.
"Unfortunately though not surprisingly, union officials never willingly relinquish their power to force workers to pay them dues," Semmens said. "That’s why, despite overwhelming precedent holding that states have the authority to protect workers from being forced to subsidize a union as a condition of employment, we see these baseless legal challenges everywhere right-to-work is adopted, funded by the very same dues union officials force workers to pay."
Semmes said the case is really about union officials hoping to delay implementation or cause confusion about the law, which they can then exploit to seize more dues from workers who would not pay them if they had a choice.
"It would be a real slap to the face of the voters who elected a pro-right-to-work legislature if the right-to-work legislation passed well over two years ago was now suddenly delayed on the basis of an invalid injunction dissolved by the West Virginia Supreme Court nine months ago," Semmens said. "Union officials ought to focus on gaining the voluntary support of the workers they claim to represent, rather than concocting baseless schemes for demanding that workers pay up or be fired."
Earlier this year the unions asked that they be allowed to enforce dues contracts that were entered into during the time that the right-to-work law was pending due to an injunction.
The foundation disagrees.
The right-to-work law passed in West Virginia in 2016. Later, several unions filed a lawsuit against the state in the hopes of stopping the law.
A Kanawha Circuit Court judge then issued a preliminary injunction while she looked into whether or not the law should be permanently enforced. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals said the judge should not have granted the injunction.
The right-to-work law went into effect on July 1, 2016, dissolving all forced union agreements.
The unions then asked the circuit court to allow agreements that were entered into during the time of the injunction to remain valid.
In its brief, the foundation contends that the circuit court does not have the authority to change the date that the law went into effect.
"The plaintiffs' motion, if granted, could have far-reaching effects on West Virginia workers, including subjecting them to compulsory union fees for additional periods of time beyond that envisioned by the Legislature," the brief states. "The foundation has an interest in defending these workers."
The brief argues that the unions simply want to avoid having to comply with the law becase they don't agree with it.
"Such an attempt to hijack the legal system to undermine the legislature's valid exercise of its power should not be permitted," the brief states.