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Governor Tomblin Vetoes the "Workplace Freedom Act" and the Prevailing Wage Bill.

Photo of Steven Snyder

Governor Tomblin has vetoed Senate Bill 1, the "Workplace Freedom Act," and House Bill 4005, an act that would have repealed the state's prevailing wage law. It only takes a simple majority vote of the members of both the House and Senate to override a veto. Since a majority of the legislators desire the enactment of both bills, it is likely that West Virginia will soon repeal the prevailing wage law and will also become the 26th state in the nation to adopt a right-to-work ("RTW") law.

Under this state's proposed RTW law, West Virginia workers will continue to have the right to unionize but they will also have "the right to refrain" from joining unions and from "paying any dues, fees, assessments or other similar charges" to unions.

The most tangible service that unions render on behalf of workers is a Collective Bargaining Agreement, a contract between the union and a company that sets forth salaries and working conditions. The Workplace Freedom Act, like other RTW laws, invalidates portions of those agreements that would require new workers to either join a union or to pay dues for the services a union renders on behalf of all employees.

Violations of the Act are classified as misdemeanor offenses and may subject offenders to fines of between $500 and $5,000 per day. Supporters of the Act argue that it will boost economic development in the state and increase the number of jobs.

House Bill 4005 is an act designed to repeal the state's prevailing wage law. That law currently sets the minimum rate of wages for workers on public improvements, such as roads, bridges, sewers, and airports. The rate is based on "the prevailing rate of wages" paid in the applicable region for workers in "the same trade or occupation." The rate is calculated by a state agency based, in part, on data provided by West Virginia University and Marshall University. Critics of the prevailing wage law state that it artificially inflates the cost of public works projects.

In vetoing Senate Bill 1, Governor Tomblin said that making West Virginia a RTW state will not help the economy and "may lower the wages" of workers. The Governor justified his veto of House Bill 4005, stating that the repeal of the prevailing wage law would "lower the wages of West Virginia workers and do little, if anything, to stimulate our economy." The House and Senate are expected to quickly override both vetoes.

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