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Paycheck Protection Act Case Goes To West Virginia Supreme Court

CHARLESTON — Justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals heard an appeal Tuesday urging them to lift a stay of a 2021 law prohibiting union dues from being taken from paychecks automatically.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday morning from representatives of Gov. Jim Justice and a dozen unions after a Kanawha County judge issued a temporary restraining order in June blocking enforcement of House Bill 2009, the Paycheck Protection Act.

HB 2009 prohibits employers and payroll agents from withholding a portion of an employee’s wages and salaries for political activities on behalf of a union or any other private organization without express written authorization by the employee. The bill also prohibits state, municipal, and county governments from withholding union or club dues from a public employee’s wages or salaries.

The West Virginia Legislature passed the bill March 19, with Justice signing the bill 12 days later. The West Virginia AFL-CIO and 11 other unions filed suit May 20 in Kanawha County Circuit Court along with West Virginia State Police Cpl. J.W. Smith Jr. and Kanawha County school teacher Jacob Fertig to block implantation of the law. Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Tera Salango granted a temporary restraining order June 15.

Lindsay See, solicitor general for the Attorney General’s Office, argued before the five justices that the case brought against HB 2009 is similar to a case brought by several of the same unions against the Workplace Freedom Act, West Virginia’s right-to-work law passed by the Legislature in 2016 allowing workers to opt out of union dues.

“This court rejected constitutional challenges to a law that made it illegal to collect union dues from an entire category of workers even though many of the respondents here today argue the result is they effectively had to provide services for free,” See said.

“Here, the circuit court didn’t even acknowledge those decisions, yet deemed it unconstitutional to require the unions to do what a majority of entities do in the state every day, which is to collect money from their customers and subscribers without the state’s help.”

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