The following editorial appeared in The Bluefield Daily Telegraph on February 7:
Republican lawmakers were correct in passing long-overdue right-to-work legislation in the Mountain State. The measure cleared the House last week by a 54-46 margin, and previously passed the Senate on a vote of 17-16. It now heads to Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who is threatening to veto the measure.
We believe it would be a mistake for Tomblin to veto this important legislation. But even if he does, the GOP only needs a simple majority vote from both chambers to override a veto. So the expected Tomblin veto certainly doesn’t mean the end of this critical measure.
The right-to-work bill will prohibit an employer from making union membership a condition of employment. If the measure is signed into law by Tomblin, or if Republicans are forced to overturn a gubernatorial veto, West Virginia would become the 26th right-to-work state in the nation. And despite what some are saying, this is a good thing.
Removing this onerous requirement should help in attracting new businesses and industries to the Mountain State. As it stands now, there are some companies that are not interested in coming to West Virginia because it does not have a right-to-work law. That should soon be changing.
Despite what opponents may claim, there is nothing sinister about the right-to-work legislation. The West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act — as it is officially called — would simply give workers the freedom to choose. And you can’t argue with that. No one should be forced to pay a union fee as a condition of employment. And unions would still be required to represent every worker under the new legislation.
We believe that making West Virginia a right-to-work state is another important step in creating a more-business friendly environment for the Mountain State. We also believe that all citizens should be afforded a right to work without burdensome requirements attached as a condition of their employment.
This new law is needed. Our state is facing a serious crisis with the loss of thousands of coal mining jobs and a growing budget deficit associated with a significant decrease in coal-and-gas severance tax revenues. Railroad jobs are now being lost in Bluefield and Huntington. Making matters worse, just about every other day it seems that another store in our region is closing. Who could have predicted the grim news about Walmart in McDowell County and Ryan’s in Bluefield, Va.?
These are challenging times. The status quo is not enough anymore. We have to try something new to bolster economic development and growth in West Virginia, and the deep south counties in particular. Holding onto the failed policies of the past is no longer a viable option.
The right-to-work measure will help bolster the state’s ailing economy by encouraging additional job growth and helping to attract new companies and industries to West Virginia. We applaud the Republican majority in Charleston for passing this important law.
It’s long past time to make West Virginia a right-to-work state.