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WV Senate passes right-to-work on party lines

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate passed a controversial “right-to-work” bill Thursday, by the barest of margins, just hours or days before a state Supreme Court ruling could switch the balance of power in the Senate.

With the Senate galleries packed with union members opposing the bill, and with the pending court decision leaving it unclear how much longer Republicans may control the Senate, the bill passed by a vote of 17-16 after more than 90 minutes of sometimes-contentious debate. Every Republican voted yes, every Democrat voted no.

A decision from the state Supreme Court, on which party will get to fill a vacant Senate seat, is expected soon. A court ruling in favor of the Democrats would likely deadlock the Senate, blocking controversial legislation like the right-to-work bill. It would also leave Republicans without the majority necessary to overturn an expected veto from Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin; a spokeswoman for the governor said Thursday that Tomblin “does not believe West Virginia needs a right-to-work law.”

Right-to-work laws, which are in effect in 25 other states, allow workers in unionized workplaces to opt out of paying union fees, even though the union must represent and negotiate for every worker.

West Virginia is at the bottom or near the bottom of nearly every economic ranking, Republicans argued, and state leaders have to do something different.

Right-to-work will only make things worse, Democrats countered…

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