CHARLESTON – A coalition of unions representing civil servants, teachers and first responders announced it was filing a lawsuit against the state to block the implementation of a law banning union dues from paychecks.
The West Virginia AFL-CIO and eleven other unions, along with the West Virginia State Police Cpl, filed a lawsuit in the Kanawha County Circuit Court on Thursday afternoon. JW Smith Jr. and Kanawha County school teacher Jacob Done.
The unions are trying to block the implementation of the 2009 House Bill, which refers to restrictions on the use of wages and fees for agency work by employers and labor organizations for political activities. HB 2009, also known as “Paycheck Protection Act” was passed on March 19 and incorporated into law on March 30 by Governor Jim Justice. The bill will come into force on June 17th.
HB 2009 prohibits employers and payroll clerks from withholding any part of an employee’s wages for political activities on behalf of a trade union or other private organization without the employee’s express written consent. The bill also prohibits state, county, and county governments from withholding union or club dues from the wages or salaries of a public employee.
According to court records, the union claims that HB 2009 discriminates against unions by prohibiting the deduction of paycheck contributions for union members while other deductions are made from paychecks on behalf of insurance companies, credit unions, nonprofits and student loans. judicial attachments, etc.
Josh Sword, president of the AFL-CIO in West Virginia, said HB 2009 was a retaliation law aimed at public employees, particularly teachers and school staff who stopped working for pay increases in 2018 and 2019.
“As clearly stated in our trial, the so-called ‘Paycheck Protection’ law discriminates against organized public employees who want to ensure a safe job and fair treatment by their employers, and was only passed by this legislative majority out of defiance.” Sword said. “House Bill 2009 prohibits selective and discriminatory wage deductions for public employees and their unions, a practice that has been in good use for more than 50 years while hundreds of other wage deductions persist.”
The unions make a number of constitutional arguments, including the state’s accusation of violating the equal treatment clause by discriminating against public unions, the contractual clause for encroaching on private contracts between unions, governments and public employees, and accusing the government of violating its first amendment having violated freedom of expression rights.
The case has been referred to Kanawha County Circuit Judge Tera Salango, wife of Kanawha County Commissioner Ben Salango. During the 2020 primaries and general election, Ben Salango was supported by numerous unions, including the AFL-CIO, during his Democratic campaign for the governor against Republican Jim Justice.
Sword accused justice of being hypocritical. While the judiciary signed the HB law in 2009, he vetoed a similar law in 2017. Union officials and members were also largely absent from the HB 2009 debate as the Executive Order of the judiciary banned the public from the State Capitol Building during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only people with official business were allowed in, so witnesses had to be invited to committee meetings during the legislature.
“At a time when our public servants, especially our police, firefighters, correctional officers, and other first responders, have kept us safe and healthy in the face of a deadly pandemic, Governor Justice and lawmakers locked the doors of the Capitol and then wasted time and tax money on such bills during this year’s legislative period. “ Sword said. “It is a shame, and unsurprisingly, that so many West Virginia citizens have no confidence in government leaders.”
Stephen Allen Adams can be reached at [email protected]