Right-to-Work an Issue in West Virginia Campaign

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Right-to-Work an Issue in West Virginia Campaign


It has been two years since legislators enacted legislation that made West Virginia a right-to-work state. Unions and their supporters are now striking back, hoping to make support for overturning this law a winning issue this election year.


In 2016, then-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, vetoed legislation that would end the requirement that individuals join a union or pay a fee to a union as a condition of employment. This bill passed the Republican-controlled legislature, and these lawmakers overturned Gov. Tomblin’s veto. After a year-long court battle, West Virginia’s right to work law went into effect in 2017.


Unions and their political supporters fought hard to defeat the law, but were unsuccessful. They now see this year’s state elections as a way to put candidates in office who will overturn it.


They have already had some success. In the May primary election, one of the Republican senators who fought hardest for this law lost his primary. He was beaten by a state delegate who opposed the 2017 law and received support from the state teachers’ union.


Support for overturning the right to work law also features heavily in the campaign of Richard Ojeda, who is a Democrat running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the state’s Third Congressional District. According to him, “Right-to-work needs to go…If we take back the state of West Virginia, we will be the first state to overturn right-to-work.”


Those opposing right-to-work in West Virginia say that the law hurts workers’ ability to bargain for higher wages and better benefits. Supporters of the law contend that it will help attract businesses and new jobs to West Virginia.


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