Union Station: Unions sue to block West Virginia law prohibiting paycheck deductions

Unions suing to block West Virginia law prohibiting paycheck deductions 

Twelve unions in West Virginia have filed suit in state court to block a law from going into effect next week that would prohibit public-sector union members from having dues withdrawn from their paychecks.

About the law

Republican-sponsored House Bill 2009, the ‘Paycheck Protection Act,’ passed the Senate 20-13 on March 16 and passed the House as amended 55-43 on March 19. Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed the bill on March 30. It was enacted in May with an effective date of June 17.  

Among the law‘s provisions is a ban on “deductions and assignments of earnings for union, labor organization, or club dues or fees” from the paychecks of state, county, and certain municipal employees, including teachers and other school personnel.

The unions’ suit

Twelve unions, including the West Virginia AFL-CIO, West Virginia Education Association, and West Virginia Troopers Association, filed their complaint in the Kanawha County Circuit Court on May 20. The complaint says:

In particular, Petitioners seek preliminary and permanent injunctions and a declaratory judgment to enjoin and invalidate a recently enacted West Virginia law, House Bill 2009 or the “Paycheck Protection Act” … which selectively prohibits the long-standing practice and contractual rights of public employees and their employers to have union dues automatically deducted from the employees’ paychecks. Petitioners seek an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the Act against public employers from dismantling a practice that has, for more than fifty years, permitted public employees and employers to agree to have union dues withheld from their paychecks.

The unions claim the act violates the equal protection and contracts clauses of the state constitution and “discriminates against the viewpoints of certain employees and their affiliated associations thereby violating the free speech rights of union and union members.”

According to the West Virginia Education Association, Judge Tera Salango will hear the case on June 14. 

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said the law was “clearly retaliation for standing together for public schools by going on strike in 2018 and 2019.”  In 2018, West Virginia teachers went on strike for nine days. In 2019, teachers participated in a two-day strike.  

Justice was first elected governor in 2016 as a Democrat. On Aug. 3, 2017, Justice 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. 


Josh Sword, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, said, “As is clearly stated in our circuit court filing, the so-called Paycheck Protection Act discriminates against organized public employees who seek to ensure safe workplaces and fair treatment by their employers, and was passed by this legislative majority purely out of spite. … House Bill 2009 selectively and discriminately prohibits paycheck deductions for public employees and their unions, a practice that has gone on for more than 50 years without a problem, while still allowing hundreds of other paycheck deductions to remain in place.”

Sen. Charles Trump (R) said, “The purpose of this bill, in my mind, is not for retribution or to punish or any such thing. … It recognizes the reality of our 21st century life, and that is we do not need to have organizations making deductions from people’s paychecks for these things anymore. It’s too easy now. Anyone who wants to belong to a club or a labor organization or a country club can easily have an automatic withdrawal set up from his or her checking account.”

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 93 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. 

  • Connecticut SB00908: This bill would require public employers to furnish unions with personal contact information of employees belonging to the bargaining unit the union represents. It would also require employers to grant unions access to new employee orientations.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed June 4.  
  • Delaware HB237: This bill would grant select law enforcement officers the right of organization and representation.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Introduced and assigned to the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee June 9.  
  • 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.
    • Marked as unfinished business June 9. 
  • Oregon SB580: This bill would amend the definition of “employment relations” in ORS 243.650 to include class size and caseload limits as mandatory collective bargaining subjects for school districts.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Passed third reading in House June 7.