Most interested observers know that the United States Chamber of Commerce consistently ranks the West Virginia legal system, generally speaking, quite poorly for employers.  In fact, West Virginia is usually ranked well below its neighboring states in these studies.  Well, West Virginia may finally have some company in the Chamber’s eyes.

In a notable development, the Chamber recently released a study that – at least from the labor and employment perspective – ranks West Virginia as having a better legal climate than Pennsylvania based on an “Employment Regulation Index” the Chamber created.  The Commonwealth was ranked as “poor” in the study, while West Virginia garnered a “fair” categorization.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette recently reported on these findings and cited comments from Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who introduced the Chamber study.  It appears that the key points to achieving a labor-friendly environment – and corresponding high ranking – include having:

  • Significant recent tort reform efforts;
  • A funding mechanism for work training programs as opposed to any increase in unemployment compensation funding;
  • Affirmative right-to-work statutes;
  • General reliance upon federal legislation as opposed to affirmative state action in the labor and employment arena;

In Pennsylvania, the particular negatives cited in the study were the high percentage of labor unions, generous workers’ compensation coverage, and the number of employment-related lawsuits.  Worse, this ranking was achieved despite the Commonwealth’s recent election of a business-friendly Republican governor, as well as the fact that the Employee Free Choice Act has gotten no support at the state level no matter how large the union presence there.

Not surprisingly, Pennsylvania’s leaders of organized labor are highly critical of this study.  The Post Gazette cited Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President, Rick Bloomingdale, as terming the ranking the “most bogus study (he has) ever seen,” and generally remarking that it is simply another attempt to undermine efforts of organized labor.

While this ranking is obviously a negative for Pennsylvania employers, at least they can take solace in the fact that they aren’t alone at the party.

Jim Wright concentrates his practice in the area of complex and commercial litigation, particularly in the areas of energy, labor and employment and construction law as well as other business matters. He has also represented professionals before state licensure boards. During his career, he has tried numerous cases in state and federal courts throughout West Virginia and Ohio. He has also argued cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and various appellate courts in the State of Ohio. Jim is a also a recognized leader in the profession, having served as a member of the West Virginia State Bar Board of Governors and currently serving as the State Bar’s Vice President.
» See more articles by James C. Wright
» Read the full biography of James C. Wright at Steptoe & Johnson

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