WV Legislative Leadership Attacking Workers Right Out of the Gate
CHARLESTON, WV -- In a move that will surprise no one who has followed the actions of the West Virginia legislative leadership for the past several years, the newly emboldened supermajority is acting swiftly to pass legislation attacking worker freedoms.
"Within just two days of the start of session, they're moving legislation to weaken unions, strip away workplace safety requirements, take resources away from public schools -- you name it, they're going after it," said Josh Sword, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO. "They're acting with unprecedented speed, while their COVID restrictions prevent members of the public from even setting foot in the capitol building, in order to trample on working families and help big-money interests."
WV AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Andy Walters noted that union representatives who would usually be at the statehouse daily, attending committee meetings and advocating for workers, are forced to monitor from afar, often having to rely on poor-quality, audio-only online streaming of meetings.
"We're doing everything we can to stay in touch with lawmakers and track these harmful bills," Walters said. "Unfortunately, circumstances surrounding the COVID pandemic have given this legislative leadership the perfect opportunity to push their agenda without public input."
As part of their ongoing effort to retaliate against public school educators, the leadership is pushing legislation to establish elitist charters schools and education "savings accounts," both of which strip resources from public school students.
"Teachers and service personnel are being targeted and attacked for standing up for their profession and their students because of grudges from our successful strikes several years ago," Fred Albert, President of AFT-West Virginia, said. "In a year when our students are at their most vulnerable and need more support than ever, our legislative leaders have decided to push initiatives like charter schools and ESAs that will drain resources from our public schools. Instead of listening to educators and implementing the academic, social and emotional supports our kids need, the legislative leadership is listening to out of state interests like the Cardinal Institute."
In keeping with a nationwide effort by out-of-state billionaires to lower worker wages by taking away safety and professional training requirements, the legislative leadership is working to undermine the state's occupational licensing.
"The attack on all professional license holders, from crane operators and electricians to doctors and nurses, is terrible," said State White with ACT and the WV State Building Trades. "Weakening and eliminating these licenses puts the public at risk just so workers from other states and countries can easily take our jobs."
But above all else, this legislative leadership is pursuing legislation solely created to drain the resources of labor unions and silence workers by controlling how union dues are allocated.
"These paycheck "deception" bills are nothing more than yet another attempt by out-of-state corporate interests to silence the voices of workers and rig the game in their own favor—they want to outlaw opposition to corporate interests," Sword said. "This is shaping up to be the worst legislative session in our state's history. I hope folks are paying attention."