Right to Work: The Law of the Land in West Virginia

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Yesterday afternoon, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia issued its decision in State v. AFL-CIO and upheld the constitutionality of West Virginia's “Right-Work-Act” (the Workplace Freedom Act). Justice Jenkins delivered the opinion in which our high court reversed the Circuit Court of Kanawha County and remanded the matter back to that lower court with instructions to enter Summary Judgment in favor of the State. In short, the Workplace Freedom Act is now the law of the land in West Virginia and provisions in collective bargaining agreements that require employees to pay representation fees to labor organizations are no longer permitted.

The three fundamental holdings by the Supreme Court are as follows:

  1. The provisions of the Workplace Freedom Act that prohibit requiring a person, as a condition of employment or as a condition for the continuation of employment, to pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges to a labor organization do not violate any right of association under the West Virginia Constitution.
  2. The provisions of the Workplace Freedom Act that prohibit requiring a person, as a condition of employment or as a condition for the continuation of employment, to pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges to a labor organization do not result in an unconstitutional taking and do not violate the West Virginia Constitution.
  3. The provisions of the Workplace Freedom Act that prohibit requiring a person, as a condition of employment or as a condition for the continuation of employment, to pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges to a labor organization do not infringe upon any liberty interest under the West Virginia Constitution.

The ruling likely will result in a number of questions from employees of unionized employers concerning their rights. While employers are permitted to provide employees with some information, the National Labor Relations Act does provide some limitations on employers in that regard. Employers should consult with their labor lawyer to make sure they are prepared to address employee inquiries and concerns.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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