West Virginia AFL-CIO officials, furious about a new law stopping unions from collecting mandatory fees, announced last week their plan to fight back with a lawsuit. West Virginia became the 26th state to enact right-to-work, which permits West Virginians in unionized workplaces to opt out of union membership without being required to pay union “fair share” fees.
But the West Virginia AFL-CIO intends to argue in court that ending fair share fees violates the state constitution by forcing unions to represent workers who do not pay — a situation resulting from union-negotiated contracts giving unions exclusive representation rights.
Unions have used the same argument against right-to-work laws in Indiana and Wisconsin. The Indiana Supreme Court overruled a lower court decision against right-to-work in 2014.
“The Union’s federal obligation to represent all employees in a bargaining unit is optional; it occurs only when the union elects to be the exclusive bargaining agent, for which it is justly compensated by the right to bargain exclusively with the employer,” Indiana Supreme Court justices wrote in their decision.
A recent lower court victory for Wisconsin unions is expected to be overturned by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Even if West Virginia’s unions win a ruling against right-to-work from a sympathetic judge, the same is likely to happen in West Virginia.