Teamsters

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West Virginia prepares for a 2016 RTW fight

GST Ken Hall talks about so-called RTW in West Virginia last month.

The defeat of so-called right-to-work (RTW) legislation in West Virginia earlier this year was a historic and symbolic victory for union members. Despite the entire state Legislature being run by Republicans for the first time in decades, the opposition from workers proved too overwhelming for a vote on the chamber floor.

Thousands of West Virginia Teamsters joined with their brothers and sisters – a coalition of workers made up of all stripes, trades and union affiliations – in protest of the anti-worker legislation. Their voice grew so loud that RTW proponents in the Legislature grew wary of a floor vote early on in the session; consequently, the bill seeking to turn West Virginia into RTW state died a slow committee death as more than 8,000 workers rallied on the steps of the Statehouse against the measure.

But another push in 2016 was all but certain. Many delegates were openly admitting they would be pushing harder during the next legislative session. Senate President Bill Cole publicly called for RTW to be on next year’s legislative agenda. Cole, a candidate to succeed Democratic Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, hopes to frame the narrative early on this time around to catapult him into office. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Fortunately, West Virginia Teamsters, led by Local 175 President and IBT General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, have been working tirelessly to expose RTW for what it truly is: a corporate-backed effort to strip workers of their rights and cripple the unions. Following the 2014 midterm elections, the American Legislative Exchange Council – a group that has spearheaded the passage of right to work and other anti-worker laws – began hedging their bets on West Virginia, but they had underestimated the resolve of the Mountain State's workers.

As one of leading voices in the West Virginia labor movement, Hall has played a key role in the fight against RTW ever since the Republican takeover. Most recently, during a Nov. 15 Joint Committee meeting, he testified in opposition to new RTW legislation seeking to make West Virginia the 26th RTW-for-less state in the country:

It doesn’t bring jobs here, it only lowers wages, that’s not good for West Virginians. And it’s not just about union members, if you lower the wages of union workers, so will the wages of the other workers in the state be lowered. The fact is if you look at the 14 states that have the highest rate of unemployment, nine of them are right to work states.

Hall will once again play a key role to oppose the anti-worker legislation. He is set to appear on West Virginia television screens this Sunday on Decision Makers with Bray Cary.

As a native son, Hall is passionate in his opposition and will continue working to inform his fellow Mountaineers of what RTW would mean for working families in West Virginia:

Unlike many of the corporations pushing for right-to-work legislation, union workers spend their wages and pay taxes in West Virginia. If this is simply a war on unions, let me make sure you understand who unions are. These are hardworking West Virginians.

With Local 175 on the front lines – and GST Hall front and center – Teamster Nation will continue to report on the latest news in the fight against RTW in West Virginia. Stay tuned!