West Virginia became the nation’s 26th right-to-work state on Friday, February 12, 2016 as both houses of the legislature voted to override Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto of the legislation a day earlier.

The Senate voted in favor of override 18-16.  The House of Delegates vote was 54-43.  A gubernatorial veto in West Virginia can be overridden by a simple majority of the members of both houses.

The legislation bans union security agreements – pacts between employers and labor unions that require all employees to join a union and pay union dues in order to work for the employer.  When the bill becomes effective in May, West Virginia employees will gain the right to refuse to join or pay dues to a union.

Contracts or agreements in place before June 30, 2016 will be unaffected by the new law, which will apply only to agreements “entered into, modified, renewed, or extended after July 1, 2016.”

After a February 4 debate that lasted almost five hours, the House of Delegates voted 54-46 in favor of the bill, which its sponsors had titled the “West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act.”  The Senate had passed the measure by a 17-16 vote on January 21.  Leaders of the Republican legislative majority had identified the bill as a priority for this session, and introduced it on the opening day of the term.

Governor Tomblin made good Thursday on his promise to veto the bill, stating in his veto message that he had “never had a company cite ‘right to work’ as a barrier to relocating in West Virginia.”  He predicted that the law “will lead to little if any economic growth and may lower the wages of West Virginia workers.”

With the legislature’s vote to override the Governor’s veto, the bill is now law and will become effective in 90 days.


For more than 20 years, Rodney Bean has provided practical, no-nonsense advice to help leading employers develop and apply labor and human resources strategies that are both compliant and prudent. He regularly counsels employers on most aspects of federal and state employment law, and has broad experience in wage and hour compliance and affirmative action planning.
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