Governor Vetos Right to Work Bill and Prevailing Wage Repeal


Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has made good on recent a promise by vetoing two bills passed by the state Legislature.

The governor vetoed House Bill 4005, which repeals the prevailing hourly wage.  In his message, Tomblin said  we don’t need to pass bills that lower the wages of West Virginia workers and do little, if anything, to stimulate our economy.

The governor also vetoed Senate Bill 1, establishing the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act, also known as right to work.  Tomblin said that he has never had a company cite right to work as a barrier to relocating to West Virginia and doesn’t believe West Virginia needs a right-to-work law that he says would lead to little if any economic growth and may lower the wages of workers.

Both bills had been priorities for the Republican-controlled Legislature. GOP leaders have vowed to override any veto.

House Speaker Tim Armstead issued this statement following Tomblin’s veto:

“Today’s vetoes are disappointing, but not entirely surprising,” Speaker Armstead said. “We believed this would likely be the governor’s response, which is why Senate President Bill Cole and I made early passage of these bills a priority in the first few weeks of the session. Nonetheless, it’s disheartening that the governor, who professes concern about the state’s budget, would reject bills designed to promote economic growth and rein in excess government spending.   “We recognize that moving our state forward requires bold action, and that is exactly what the Legislature took in passing these bills,” Armstead said. “By vetoing the prevailing wage legislation, Governor Tomblin rejected an important measure to make sure West Virginians get the most from their hard-earned tax dollars. The veto of the Workplace Freedom bill reflects a disregard for the rights of workers who simply want to be able to go to work each day and support their families while having the freedom to choose the organizations with which they associate.   “We anticipate the Legislature will vote to override these vetoes in short order."

Senate President Bill Cole also issued a statement on the Governor’s vetoes:

“I am not surprised at Governor Tomblin’s decision to veto these bills, but I am disappointed. From the beginning, I have said the Senate is committed to doing what is necessary in order to move our state forward. I believe both of these bills – the West Virginia Workplace Freedom Act and the repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law – accomplish this goal. The Senate will not delay action to override these vetoes.”

Union Response

AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue also issued a statement on the matter:

“On behalf of 140,000 hard-working men and women represented by the West Virginia AFL-CIO, I would like to thank Governor Tomblin for seeing through the false promises offered by supporters of both these bills. Rather than endorsing legislation that only serves out-of-state corporate interests, the Governor stood up for West Virginia working families." We continually provide examples from other Right to Work states showing the law lowers wages, makes workplaces less safe, and does absolutely nothing to create jobs while inserting government into private business negotiations. But these facts are ignored, because the real goal behind Right to Work is to weaken unions, pure and simple. Yet just last week, we released Public Policy Polling results showing unions to be ‘wildly popular’ among West Virginians — our residents don’t want unions weakened. Not only does repeal of prevailing wage lower wages for working families, it hurts West Virginia contractors and other employers too,” White said. “More than 100 contractors have sent letters to lawmakers stating that abolishing the Prevailing Wage would put West Virginia companies out of business. It is our hope that the legislators who voted in favor of Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 4005 will reconsider, and vote to uphold the Governor’s vetoes.”