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Legislative battle over W.Va. labor issues heating up

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The new Republican majority in the West Virginia Legislature has a strategy for state labor laws, and the beginning of what will likely be some of the most heated debates in the 2015 session are about to unfold, many lawmakers believe.

Democrats in the House of Delegates have said the battle began last Wednesday, when a vote to change the job qualification for the state Commissioner of Labor from someone who is identified with “the labor interests of the state” to “has knowledge and experience in employee issues and interests including employee-employer relationships in this state” passed 64-35 with one absent.

During a lengthy and at times heated back-and-forth on the House floor before the vote, Del. Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, said “bad things come in threes,” and implicated the bill was one part of a trio of “bad bills” meant to undermine the power of the state’s labor unions.

Republicans argued it was not a union issue, but a move to modernize an antiquated job description and give the governor’s office more options for selecting an appointee for the position.

The other bills to which Rowe was referring consist of a proposal to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, and a measure that would make West Virginia a right-to-work state.

The prevailing wage issue stirred up debate the very next day at the other end of the Capitol…

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