The West Virginia Senate passed a measure Thursday to outlaw mandatory union dues and fees as a condition of employment.
The Senate approved the bill with a 17 to 16 vote before sending it to the House of Delegates. The measure was introduced Jan. 13 on the first day of the 60-day legislative session. The policy has been a Republican priority since the party secured the legislature in November 2014. It is more commonly known as right-to-work.
“I believe this is a critical first step toward bringing about the kind of change in West Virginia that is desperately needed to jump start our struggling economy,” Senate President Bill Cole said in a statement provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “For far too many years, the status quo has held our state back, and today is an important step in moving West Virginia forward.”
Supporters argue it will help reverse decades of bad economic policies enacted under previous Democratic control. Critics, however, dispute the claim by noting the policy makes it much more difficult for workers to advocate for themselves. Americans for Prosperity State Director Jason Huffman notes the policy will help workers while promoting job growth.
“We applaud the lawmakers who put West Virginia workers ahead of special interests by voting for right-to-work,” Huffman told TheDCNF in a statement. “The senate took time to examine right-to-work and after realizing the benefits of the policy, as determined by economists at West Virginia University among others, took bold action to grow jobs in the state and increase freedom in the workplace.”
Americans for Prosperity West Virginia has been at the forefront of advocating for the policy in the state. It has launched an extensive media campaign in support. Nevertheless, the West Virginia AFL-CIO disputed supporters in a recent radio ad. The ad stated right-to-work will cause a 54 percent increase in workplace injury and can lower wages as much as $6,000 per year.
“A West Virginia Right to Work law would free thousands of West Virginia workers who have been forced to pay tribute to a union boss just for the privilege of getting and keeping a job,” National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix told TheDCNF. “The law would also provide a much needed economic boost for West Virginia.”
Supporters were able to get the measure passed despite a disputed Senate seat. Republican Sen. Daniel Hall resigned from his seat Jan. 3, putting the party majority in question. Hall helped the Republicans take the majority in the Senate when he switched parties in 2014.
The issue is whether a Republican or Democrat should take his spot. Hall left as a Republican but was voted in as a Democrat. The West Virginia Democratic Party asserts his seat should be replaced with someone in their party since he was elected as a Democrat. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals heard arguments Tuesday on which party should replace him but has yet to make a decision.