West Virginia to Become 26th Right-to-Work State

By Joanne Deschenaux Feb 19, 2016
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On July 1,​ 2016, West Virginia will join 25 other states in prohibiting private employers from requiring workers to pay union dues, fees and assessments as a condition of employment. Although the state’s Democratic governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, vetoed the right-to-work measure, the West Virginia legislature overrode the governor’s veto on Feb. 12, 2016. Since 2012, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin have also become right-to-work states.

‘Right to Work’ Without Joining Union 

Most private, nongovernmental employers are covered by the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act. The law originally allowed a union and an employer to agree that employees must join the union within 30 days or be fired, and the law still allows a “union security clause” to be included in collective bargaining agreements. In 1947, however, a provision, Section 14(b), was added to the law. It permits states to enact measures that prohibit agreements that would require union membership as an employment condition. In other words, a state can pass a law that gives employees ”the right to work” without being required to join a union or to pay union membership dues or fees. 

The 26 states that have passed right-to-work laws are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

West Virginia’s Law

The West Virginia law, known as the Workplace Freedom Act, provides that a person may not be required, as a condition or continuation of employment, to:

  • Become or remain a member of a labor organization.
  • Pay any dues, fees, assessments or other similar charges, however denominated, of any kind or amount to any labor organization; or
  • Pay any charity or third party, in lieu of those payments, any amount that is equivalent to or a pro rata portion of dues, fees, assessments or other charges required of members of a labor organization.

The law applies to any written or oral contract or agreement entered into, modified, renewed or extended after July 1, 2016. It does not apply to any written or oral agreement in effect on or before June 30, 2016.

Joanne Deschenaux, J.D., is SHRM’s senior legal editor.

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