The Koch Connection to W.Va. RTW Efforts


(Paul Nyden, a long-time West Virginia labor reporter, will occasionally be contributing to the Teamster Nation blog about issues before the state’s Legislature. His latest report follows.)

The West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates both recently passed a so-called right-to-work (RTW) bill and legislation eliminating “prevailing wage” standards, primarily for construction workers.

The RTW measure has already reached the desk of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The prevailing wage bill will soon be there. The governor has five days to decide whether or not to sign bills after they are sent to him.

Tomblin has already indicated he is likely to veto the bills. But a simple majority in both houses would override those potential vetoes.

Since the Senate passed RTW by a vote of 18 to 16, Democrats hope that one Senate Republican will switch positions, making it a tie vote which would not overturn a governor’s veto.  The bills would take effect 90 days after they are official approved.

Earlier this week, United Mine Workers of America President Cecil E. Roberts said, “The wholesale attack on workers, their families and their communities that is playing out in the State Capitol has gone on long enough.

“The Legislature has gone out of its way to needlessly divide West Virginians for the benefit of a wealthy few. They and the front groups that are responsible for this travesty know this effort isn’t about creating jobs or attracting new businesses to West Virginia. Their actions are about one thing and one thing only: stripping away the rights of workers and tearing down the strength workers and families have when we speak with one voice.”

Roberts believes the RTW bill should be placed on the ballot in November so the public can vote to approve, or disapprove, it.

“Before the legislature takes away the right of working families to earn a fair living working at a safe job, those families deserve the right to vote on it.

The Center for Media and Democracy pointed out that West Virginia’s RTW and prevailing wage bills were based on legislation proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, an organization funded by the Koch brothers.

The CMD pointed out that West Virginia Senate President Bill Cole (R) is a member of ALEC. Cole recently attended a private conference, closed to the public, hosted by the Koch Brothers in Palm Springs, Calif. in late January.

Cole said he attended the Koch Brothers annual three-day conference in his official capacity of West Virginia Senate president. He insists it was not a political event.

Good sense says otherwise.