West Virginia Senate discusses political use of wages
CHARLESTON — Members of the West Virginia Senate voted down an amendment Monday to a bill limiting use of wages by labor groups and private organizations for political purposes.
House Bill 2009, relating to limitations on the use of wages and agency shop fees by employers and labor organizations for political activities, will be on third reading and up for passage in the Senate today.
HB 2009 would prohibit employers and payroll agents from withholding a portion of an employee’s wages and salaries for political activities on behalf of a union or any other private organization without express written authorization by the employee.
The Senate Judiciary Committee greatly expanded the scope of the bill to prohibit state, municipal, and county governments from withholding union or club dues from a public employee’s wages or salary. The committee recommended the bill for passage last week, with the Senate approving the committee’s amendment by voice vote Monday.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, offered an amendment Monday to the committee amendment to make an exception for cities and local governments with collective bargaining agreements with unions after state Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, brought the issue to Trump’s attention. Federal labor law prohibits interference with existing labor contracts.
An amendment offered by state Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, that would have allowed state, county, and municipal public employers to continue to collect union dues and fees for use by political candidates, political committees, and other political activities.
“This amendment is very simple,” Romano said. “It allows for the continuation of nonpolitical dues by the payroll departments of the various entities that are affected by this … The important thing to remember is these dues that would be collected have nothing to do with campaigns, with issues, with winning and losing at election time. It simply permits the collection of operating dues by our public employees.”
Trump rose to speak against Romano’s amendment. Citing as an example the numerous services — such as Netflix, SiriusXM, Patreon, etc. — that automatically deduct service fees for use of their entertainment products, Trump said state and local government shouldn’t have to collect these fees since there were private options for deducting these same fees.
“Every citizen in West Virginia … enjoys the right to belong to whatever group or organization he or she wants to belong to,” Trump said. “It is an unwarranted use of public resources to have the state or the county or the school board or the municipal government become the collection agent for all these various organizations … Anyone can set up on his or her checking account at a bank or a financial institution an automatic withdrawal. People have subscriptions to things that roll up every month.”
The Romano amendment failed 14-20 along mostly party lines, with senators Amy Grady, R-Mason; Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur; and David Stover, R-Wyoming, voting with the Democratic minority.
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