National Right to Work Members Led Mobilization to Pass 2016 Law
Five years ago this February, freedom-loving citizens across the Mountain State celebrated as the West Virginia Legislature overrode Big Labor Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s (D) veto of a bill banning forced union dues and fees.
The nearly 16,000 National Right to Work Committee members then living in West Virginia spearheaded the diverse coalition who successfully fought to pass the 26th Right to Work law.
Their primary motivation was a deeply held belief that forcing any worker to bankroll a union as a job condition is morally wrong.
But many supporters were also aware that Right to Work laws have a long and impressive track record of boosting employee pay and job creation.
Average Weekly Earnings Have Grown More Than Twice As Fast as Inflation
Today, mounting evidence indicates Committee members and their allies in West Virginia were correct to believe that Right to Work would give their state a much-needed lift.
For example, recently revised and updated U.S. Labor Department data show that, from 2016 to 2020, the average weekly earnings for private-sector employees in West Virginia soared by 17.8%, from just over $736 to nearly $868.
Over the first four years after Right to Work adoption, private employees’ weekly earnings growth outpaced inflation as measured by the Labor Department’s CPI-U by a whopping 128%.
Consequently, inflation-adjusted earnings grew by 8.4% from 2016 to 2020, or roughly twice as much as over the four years leading up to Right to Work passage.
Another key index showing how the West Virginia economy turned around after the ban on forced union dues and fees was adopted is total employment as measured by the Labor Department’s Household Survey.
The data show that employment in West Virginia continually shrank from 2012 to 2016, declining from 750,000 to 737,000.
Subsequent to Right to Work passage, West Virginia employment expanded every year up to 2019, when employment reached 759,000, higher than it had been in more than a decade.
Of course, employment in West Virginia fell in the COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020, as it did in every state. But West Virginia’s annual decline was nearly 40% less severe than the average for the 23 remaining forced-dues states.
And the Mountain State now appears poised for a strong employment recovery.
National Committee Supporters Deserve Part of the Credit For West Virginia’s Success
“The accelerated earnings growth West Virginia employees have enjoyed is typical for states where Right to Work protections have recently been implemented,” said National Right to Work Committee Vice President John Kalb.
“And Right to Work members and supporters nationwide deserve part of the credit for these protections now being on the books.”
In early 2016, Mr. Kalb recalled, the National Committee assisted with an email mobilization of freedom-loving citizens that began soon after it was publicly announced that a Senate committee would vote on legislation letting workers choose for themselves whether to join and pay dues to a union.
The Right to Work mobilization continued until Mr. Tomblin’s veto was overridden by the Legislature roughly four weeks later.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that West Virginia employees and business owners have manifestly benefited from passage and implementation of the Right to Work statute, union bosses and their puppet politicians continue to deride the state’s ban on forced union dues and to push for its repeal.
But ordinary West Virginia voters are refusing to go along, noted Mr. Kalb. He explained:
“Just last year, the West Virginia AFL-CIO was the key backer of a $5 million Big Labor political front group created to punish state elected officials who support Right to Work.
“What actually happened is that all the pro-forced unionism West Virginia Senate challengers backed by the union boss-controlled ‘Mountain State Values’ outfit were defeated.
“Thanks to West Virginia voters, Right to Work support is now far stronger in both chambers of the Legislature in Charleston than it was at the time the forced-dues ban became law.”