Public employee strike bill enacted

West Virginia public employee strike bill enacted without governor’s signature

West Virginia Senate Bill 11, which makes public employee strikes illegal, was enacted on March 16 without Gov. Jim Justice’s (R) signature. It will go into effect on June 2. 

About the bill

Senate Bill 11 codified the 1990 West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruling in Jefferson County Board of Education v. Jefferson County Education Association. That decision upheld a circuit court ruling that a Jefferson County public school teachers’ strike was illegal. The Supreme Court of Appeals concluded, “In short, we decline to alter the common law judicially. Public employees have no right to strike in the absence of express legislation or, at the very least, appropriate statutory provisions for collective bargaining, mediation, and arbitration. In view of our legislature’s silence on these complex issues, we decline to intervene.”  

In 2018, West Virginia teachers went on strike for nine days. A year later, teachers participated in a two-day strike.  

The newly-enacted law says, “Public employees in West Virginia have no right, statutory or otherwise, to engage in collective bargaining, mediation, or arbitration, and any work stoppage or strike by public employees is hereby declared to be unlawful.” The law says striking is grounds for termination and requires forfeiture of prorated pay to the county board of education. 

The Republican-sponsored bill first passed the Senate 20-12 on Feb. 22. An amended version passed the House 51-44 on March 2 with 23 Republicans voting against it. The Senate amended the House version and passed the bill a second time on March 3 by the same margin. The final version of the bill passed the House 53-42 on March 4, with two Republicans changing their votes to support the bill. 

The bill was sent to Gov. Justice on March 10. According to the state constitution, “Any bill which shall not be returned by the governor within five days, Sundays excepted, after it shall have been presented to him shall be a law, in the same manner as if he had signed it.” Without Justice’s signature or veto, the bill became law on March 16. 

Justice was first elected governor in 2016 as a Democrat. On August 3, 2017, he announced he was switching parties, giving Republicans trifecta control of the state. Republicans currently hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. 



  • Sen. Patricia Rucker (R), the bill’s lead sponsor, said, “This bill simply clarifies work stoppages are illegal. This bill simply clarifies that it was not the legislature’s intent to facilitate illegal work stoppages. … This actually frees up the county boards of education to know how to act in the future. This is not a retaliatory bill.” 
  • Sen. Eric Tarr (R) said, “I’ve had parent after parent after parent reach out to me, through this pandemic especially, to say they’re worried for their kids. … They have not been able to get instruction in a consistent manner for four years. … This actually requires a superintendent to take pause — and do you automatically cave to organizations that cheer our teachers on to fail our children?”


  • Sen. Mike Caputo (D) said, “This bill does nothing to move West Virginia forward. It does nothing to further that profession. It’s mean-spirited — and I think it’s in retaliation for people standing up for what they believe in.”
  • American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia President Fred Albert said, “Not only is SB 11 a perfect example of [an attack against public education], it’s a redundant one at that. Public employee strikes are already illegal in West Virginia and have been for decades. The public doesn’t want retaliatory bills; they want to see the passage of bills that will positively affect our schools and help our students succeed.”

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 84 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s) 

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. 

  • Arizona SB1268: This bill would establish annual disclosure requirements for public-sector unions. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Commerce Committee hearing scheduled for March 23.
  • Arkansas SB341: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining on the part of public-sector employees. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee reported favorably with amendment March 16. 
  • Florida S1014: This bill would require unions certified as bargaining agents for educational support employees include certain information in registration renewal applications. The bill would also require such unions whose full dues-paying membership is less than 50 percent to petition the state for recertification. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee reported favorably March 17.  
  • Illinois HB3891: This bill would establish that police union contracts no longer supersede state law. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Referred to House Labor and Commerce Committee March 16.
  • Illinois HB3892: This bill would limit peace officer contract negotiations to the subject of wages only. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Referred to House Labor and Commerce Committee March 16.
  • Maine LD449: Existing law requires public employers and collective bargaining agents to meet within 10 days of receiving written notice of a request for a bargaining meeting.  This applies only if the parties have not otherwise agreed in an earlier contract. This bill would eliminate that exception. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Labor and Housing Committee hearing March 17. 
  • Maine LD52: This bill would allow educational policies related to preparation and planning time and transfer of teachers to be subjects of collective bargaining negotiations. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Education and Cultural Affairs Committee hearing scheduled for March 29. 
  • Maryland HB1321: This bill would bar employers from requiring employees to become, remain, or refrain from becoming members of a union as a condition of employment.
    • Republian sponsorship.  
    • House Economic Matters Committee reported unfavorably March 17. 
  • Maryland HB894: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for certain community college employees. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Appropriations Committee reported favorably with amendment March 18. 
  • Maryland SB556: This bill would establish a separate collective bargaining unit for teachers at the Maryland School for the Deaf. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Passed second reading.
  • Maryland SB746: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for certain community college employees. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate Finance Committee reported favorably March 17. 
  • Maryland SB9: This bill would make revisions to the collective bargaining process for employees of the University System of Maryland. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Passed second reading. 
  • New Hampshire SB61: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services executive session scheduled for March 30. 
  • Oregon HB3029: This bill would require the Employment Relations Board to develop procedures for authorizations designating bargaining unit representatives. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Business and Labor Committee work session March 15. 
  • Tennessee HJR0072: A constitutional amendment that would bar any person, corporation, or governmental entity from denying employment due to an individual’s affiliation status with a union or other employee organization. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Commerce Committee reported favorably March 16. Referred to House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee.  
  • Washington SB5133: This bill amends the definition of a “confidential employee” for the purposes of collective bargaining. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee executive session March 19. 
  • West Virginia HB3124: This bill would permit collective bargaining by public-sector employees. 
    • Bipartisan sponsorship. 
    • Referred to House Government Organization Committee March 12. 
  • West Virginia SB11: This bill would prohibit public-sector employees from striking.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Enacted without governor’s signature March 16.