For the first time in 84 years that the Republican Party holds the majority of seats in both houses of the West Virginia legislature. Low turnout last November by Democrats in the state, along with money from wealthy out of state corporations and donors like the Koch brothers pouring into the state combined to bring anti-worker forces into power.
Despite their money coming from groups who want to weaken the power of workers and take money out of our pockets, these candidates did not run on an anti-worker agenda. If you look at what they were saying during the election, they were not talking about passing “right to work”, repealing the prevailing wage, bringing charter schools, or weakening safety protections for coal miners. But when they got into power, those things topped their agenda.
Our members in Virginia know what “right to work” is really about. It gives people no rights and no work. It only undermines the power of working people and hurts their ability to win strong collective bargaining agreements.
We decided early that we are not going to let “right to work” come to West Virginia. We pulled six strong members out of their stores to help lead the fight, Tami Faulknier, Mike Belcher, Tim Belcher, Andy Keeney, Larry Southern, and Randy McCray. Our lead lobbyist, Sterling Ball, was at the state capitol every day, joined whenever possible by our West Virginia Regional Director Chuck Miller, our President Mark Federici, and members from around the state. We talked to every elected official who would listen. We met early on with the state AFL-CIO and other allies to build a strong coalition to fight back. Our leadership on the issue was noticed.
On February 18, we brought nearly 100 shop stewards, along with members of UFCW Local 23 and the Chemical Workers Council, to the state capitol in a massive show of force and lobby day.
We continued the fight through the end of the legislative session, educating members in the stores, getting them to make phone calls, write letters, and volunteer to fight back. We turned out in force, along with Local 23, to the massive Mountaineer Workers Rising Rally on March 7 at the state capitol. You can watch us making noise below.
Joined by labor leaders from across the state and across the country, and 7,000 workers from across the state, President Mark Federici fired up the crowd and gave us the final push of momentum to defeat both “right to work” and charter schools this year. A bill that weakens the prevailing wage rules was passed and some coal mine safety rules were rolled back. Most importantly: The out-of-state anti-work forces did not achieve their goals, the workers’ and their unwire hustle in making their voices heard combatted them.
Congratulations to our West Virginia members who fought hard and won the first battle, but the war on workers in West Virginia continues, and we will continue to take the lead in fighting back.
What to get involved in the next round of making our voices heard? Email Local 400 Deputy Director of Campaigns.