A dozen organizations representing tens of thousands of public employees - including law enforcement officers and other first responders such as firefighters, as well as educators, state and municipal employees - have filed suit in order to block a new law that was passed with the sole purpose of retaliating against them.
“As is clearly stated in our circuit court filing, the so-called ‘Paycheck Protection’ Act discriminates against organized public employees who seek to ensure safe workplaces and fair treatment by their employers, and was passed by this legislative majority purely out of spite,” WV AFL-CIO President Josh Sword said. “House Bill 2009 selectively and discriminately prohibits paycheck deductions for public employees and their unions, a practice that has gone on for more than 50 years without a problem, while still allowing hundreds of other paycheck deductions to remain in place.
“It is blatant vindictiveness, and it’s a violation of these employees’ constitutional rights.”
The petition brought by the 12 organizations and 2 individuals was filed today in Kanawha Circuit Court. The lawsuit points to violations of equal protection and contracts clauses of the West Virginia Constitution, as well as discrimination against the viewpoints of certain employees and thereby a violation of our constitutionally protected free speech.
In 2017, the same legislative leadership passed a similar bill (Senate Bill 239) targeting union members, but Governor Justice vetoed it, stating: “This bill creates a significant hardship on employers and employees for a convenient practice that has become commonplace in today’s society, authorizing employee payroll deductions.” At that time, Justice said the bill created an “unnecessary burden” on employers. In a not so surprising flip-flop from just a few short years ago, Justice joined in on the retaliation this year and signed the bill into law.
“In a time when our public employees, particularly our police, firefighters, corrections officers and other first responders, have kept us safe and healthy in the face of a deadly pandemic, Governor Justice and legislative leaders locked the doors of the Capitol, then wasted time and taxpayer moneys on bills like this during this year’s legislative session,” Sword said. “It’s disgraceful, and not surprising, that so many West Virginia citizens have no confidence in state government leaders.”
The following are contacts for each of the organizations that brought the lawsuit:
- Communications Workers of America, District 2-13; CWA/NCPSO Local 2055/West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation; CWA Local 2001/West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration Agency
West Virginia State Troopers Association Local 2019
CWA International Staff Representative Elaine Harris: 304-541-7293
- District 8 of the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union
Heather Anderson, Sub-District Director, USW District 8, Sub-District 6: 304-613-9881
- West Virginia State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police
President Steve Walker: 304-539-3670
- West Virginia School Service Personnel Association
Executive Director Joe White: 304-346-3544
- West Virginia Education Association
President Dale Lee: 304-346-5315; 304-887-4819 (cell) and Executive Director Kym Randolph: 304-346-5315; 304.549.7853 (cell)
- Professional Firefighters of America
WV President Myron Boggess: 304-688-8336
- United Mine Workers of America International
Director of Communications and Governmental Affairs Phil Smith: 703-291-2430 (desk) | 571-345-8338 (cell)
- American Federation of Teachers – West Virginia
President Fred Albert: 304-344-2679; 304-552-5555 (cell)
- West Virginia AFL-CIO
Communications Director Stacey Ruckle: 304-553-2833