A Majority of States Now Have Right-to-Work Laws

West Virginia overrode the governor’s veto to become the 26th state to undercut union participation.

Protesters march in Madison, Wisconsin, against a "right-to-work" proposal last year. Twenty-six states have now passed right-to-work laws.Steve Apps, Wisconsin State Journal/AP


West Virginia, once a bastion of organized labor, will soon join the ranks of the right-to-work states that have undercut union participation. The Republican-dominated state legislature on Friday overrode Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto of a right-to-work bill, becoming the 26th state in the nation to pass such legislation.

Right-to-work laws bar unions from negotiating contracts that require all workers represented by a union to pay dues—in effect guaranteeing workers the union’s protections and representation regardless of whether they contribute. The laws are broadly understood to weaken unions.

The bill faced fierce opposition from unions, who organized protests at the state capitol and launched TV and radio ad campaigns to fight the legislation. But it also had money behind it, courtesy of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers that has lobbied for right-to-work laws across the nation. One of the West Virginia bill’s key proponents, Republican gubernatorial candidate and state Senate president Bill Cole, touted his efforts to pass the right-to-work bill at a Palm Springs retreat organized by the Kochs earlier this year.

According to the US Census Bureau, West Virginia had a higher poverty rate than all but 10 states between 2011 and 2013. Many communities have been hit hard by the loss of thousands of mining jobs in recent years. Republican lawmakers claimed that loosening labor laws was necessary to attract businesses to the state. Democrats have argued that it will ultimately hurt workers, and that the bill was aimed primarily at diminishing unions’ political clout.

The right-to-work law will go into effect on July 1.

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate