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WV Gov. Justice vetoes right-to-work bill


Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have retroactively amended last year’s right-to-work legislation amid its ongoing legal battle.

Justice vetoed the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act, SB 330, because of the pending lawsuit against the bill and the injunction filed against its enforcement, according to a news release sent out from his office.

“[Last year’s version of the bill] is currently being challenged as unconstitutional in Kanawha County Circuit Court and the injunctive relief issued by that Court has been appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals,” he said. “Any amendment to this statute before such time as a Court has finally determined its constitutionality is imprudent and contrary to public policy.”

Tuesday’s veto is the first from the Justice administration.

The bill in question was written to allow workers in union shops to opt out of paying union dues, but still receive union representation. Supporters of right-to-work legislation often argue a mandate to buy union dues burdens businesses and infringes on employees’ rights of free association. Critics say the laws weaken unions and enable free riders.

Following a challenge from union attorneys, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the law in August.

That injunction is under review by the state Supreme Court.

This year’s version of the bill cleaned up two sections of the 2016 version, one of which could possibly exempt building and construction trade unions, and another that could suggest the law only applies to public employee unions.

The lawsuit cited both the sections in question, along with fundamental arguments regarding how the legislation could weaken unions.

Though the bill passed through the Senate with an easy 22-12 vote, it sidled past the House of Delegates with a narrow 52-48 vote, which ended with an argument in the chamber over the bill’s name. According to Justice’s veto letter to Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has requested that the circuit court issue a final decision regarding last year’s bill by May 1, 2017.

The appeal of the injunction of last year’s bill is expected after April 21, 2017, according to the veto letter.

“Our state doesn’t need to meddle in the pending litigation,” Justice said in the release. “This issue is for the Supreme Court to decide.”

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