The truth about Right to Work, Prevailing Wage is finally told

Now that West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has repeatedly declared the state's so-called "Right to Work" law and repeal of the Prevailing Wage economic development failures, labor leaders are anxiously waiting for newly appointed state Economic Development Director Mitch Carmichael to echo his boss's sentiments, and call for reversal of those two policies.

"For years this legislative leadership declared that Right to Work and repeal of Prevailing Wage would bring economic prosperity to West Virginia, and one of the loudest of those voices has been Mitch Carmichael's," WV AFL-CIO President Josh Sword said. "Now that the governor has hired Mitch to lead the charge on improving our state's dire economic situation, we certainly hope he would acknowledge what the governor has said about those unsuccessful policies and adopt a new approach."

Twice during online town hall meetings last week, the governor referred to both Right to Work and repeal of Prevailing wage as economic development efforts that simply flopped.

"We passed the right-to-work law in West Virginia. And we ran to the windows looking to see all the people that were going to come -- and they didn't come. We got rid of prevailing wage. We changed our corporate taxes and we've done a lot of different things. And we've run to the windows and they haven't come," Justice said. "We've absolutely built the field in a lot of different places thinking build the field and they'll come, and they didn't come."

Ken Hall, Teamsters Local 175 President and General Secretary-Treasurer of the Teamsters international, was on the front lines of the fight to prevent the Legislature from passing those bills and testified during the legal challenge of Right to Work about how that law does nothing to protect worker rights or bring new business to the state.

"We always knew Right-to-work wouldn't create jobs. It is only an attack on unions, plain and simple -- union jobs that provide fair wages and benefits to workers," Hall said. "It's been the same in other states. Oklahoma enacted it in 2001 with the promise of large increases in the number of new companies and jobs coming into the state. Fourteen years later, economic studies showed there were no significant effects on job growth or wages as a result."

The Prevailing Wage repeal, which took effect in May 2016, eliminated using average wage requirements on new public construction projects. Steve White, director of West Virginia Affiliated Construction Trades, said repealing the Prevailing Wage has only meant taking wages from 30,000 West Virginia construction workers and giving them to out-of-area contractors and their imported workers.

"What we've seen as a result is poor quality construction, significant delays, cost overruns, low wages, the elimination of benefits, and safety citations -- all of which we believe are attributed to the repeal of prevailing wage," White said. "It's bad for workers and local contractors, and bad for the economy."

WV AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Andy Walters noted that Mitch Carmichael, first as majority leader then as Senate president, promised that Right to Work and repeal of Prevailing Wage would bring thousands of jobs to West Virginia.

"After being voted out of office in the Republican Primary, he has now been given a job -- one that has the potential to significantly increase his state pension and is being elevated to a cabinet level position -- to carry out the governor's vision for our state's economy," Walters said. "Seeing how the Justice administration considers Right to Work and the absence of prevailing wage to be failed policies, he should work with the Legislature to reverse them."

Sword said such a move would make sense.

"Just two years ago, Mitch Carmichael indicated he didn't want to see Justice re-elected to a second term because he didn't 'want four more years of this type of leadership — or lack of leadership — at the governor's mansion.'" Sword said. "Having taken this economic development position with Justice, we can only assume he's done a 180 on his view of Justice's leadership, as well as on Right to Work and Prevailing Wage."

Legislative leaders still hiding, hurting workers
WV AFL-CIO's Letter to Legislative Leadership

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