CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Supreme Court says it isn’t going to jump into West Virginia’s right-to-work law just yet.
Last week, the state Attorney General’s office asked the court to override a preliminary injunction ruling by Judge Jennifer Bailey.
This week, the court refused the motion.
“The Court notes that to the extent petitioner seeks to expedite resolution of the merits of the challenge to the subject legislation, the mechanism to achieve that result is not to expedite this appeal of an interlocutory ruling on a preliminary injunction, but instead it is to seek a final order from the court and then pursue an appeal if appropriate,” the Supreme Court responded Monday.
The Court’s order notes that Justice Allen Loughry and Justice Beth Walker would immediately want to hear the case.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office filed a petition March 7 with the state Supreme Court. The Attorney General also sought an expedited ruling from the court.
The office contended Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey erred in issuing the injunction.
“The negative impact caused by this injunction demands immediate relief,” Morrisey stated in a release about the filing last week.
“I urge the state Supreme Court to consider our arguments and reach an expedited decision so as to eliminate confusion and mitigate damage to our state.”
Right-to-work legislation was such a priority during the 2016 session that it was officially Senate Bill 1. It was introduced in the Senate and sent to Judiciary on the very first day of the that year’s legislative session, Jan. 13.
It passed both houses and was sent to then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin by Feb. 8. He swiftly vetoed it Feb. 11, and both houses overrode his veto the very next day.
The law went into effect July 1. Judge Bailey approved a temporary injunction supported by unions on August 10.
The overriding issue is whether employees who join a workplace represented by a union have to pay some form of dues, whether they embrace union representation or not.
The unions argue that employees who don’t would receive the benefits of collective bargaining without providing financial support to pay for those activities. In other words, they say, the right-to-work law takes union property.
Since Judge Bailey originally ordered the preliminary injunction, the law has been in limbo.
On Feb. 23, Bailey filed a written version of the preliminary injunction.
On the broader constitutional issues, Bailey suggested that workers who receive the benefits of a union without having to participate would have little incentive to pay for such services. She said the potential harm to the unions’ interest necessitated the preliminary injunction until a broader ruling is made.
“If, as prescribed by S.B. 1, employees can obtain the services of a union to negotiate and administer a contract without having to pay either union dues or the agency fees, they would — naturally and predictably — be seriously discouraged from joining a union,” Bailey wrote.
“Why, the employee would ask, should I pay for something that the law requires be made available to me for nothing?”
Morrisey’s office claims the delay in implementation has caused damage to the state — along with confusion among employees, unions and employers who lack guidance about how to lawfully negotiate collective bargaining agreements.
“The circuit court erred in preliminarily enjoining Senate Bill 1 of the 2016 Legislative Session (“the Act”) because Respondents cannot show a likelihood of success, or even a substantial question, on the merits of their claims, Respondents have failed to show any irreparable harm. and both the State and the public will be irreparably harmed by the injunction,” according to the petition filed by state Solicitor General Elbert Lin.
The state Legislature has been working this session to clean up some aspects of the original bill.