Senate Bill 601, which negatively affects workers’ rights in the grievance process, was held over one day on the Senate Calendar, so it will be taken up on 2nd Reading (amendment stage) in the Friday floor session.

The Senate could approve the bill by Monday. If approved by the Senate, the bill goes to the House of Delegates. Keep in mind: There are still 15 days left in the 60-day session.

A recap of what this bill would do:

  • It will prohibit grievances over “actions taken by the employer in accordance with Executive Orders issued by the Governor related to declared states of preparedness or states of emergency.”
  • It will require grievance statements to be notarized, and signed by the grievant or his/her representative.
  • It will allow any party to file a motion to dismiss, citing a number of possible reasons. The administrative law judge would have to halt other proceedings and has 10 days to rule on the motion or set a hearing date on the matter. (This will give agencies another delay tactic.)
  • It will open up the possibility for grievants to be forced to pay the respondent’s legal fees. The text: “The prevailing party at level three may move for and request actual attorney’s fees and costs. If the administrative law judge finds that the opposing party presented a grievance or defense that lacked any basis in fact or law, was not brought in good faith, or was brought with malice or wrongful purpose, including but not limited to delay or harassment, then the administrative law judge may award attorney’s fees and costs to the movant.”
The last item is the scariest of all, as judges have wide latitude to determine what was “not brought in good faith” or other clauses.

Meanwhile, we are waiting for the effective date of House Bill 2009, which will completely ban the state from processing payroll deductions for union dues. The governor will either sign the bill or let it become law without his signature, and then the bill takes effect 90 days afterward.

We have asked the State Auditor’s office to give us a date on the last dues deduction, so we can make the timely transfer to a credit/debit card system. We have that in place via phone, and will will integrate it with our website at uelocal170.org.

We are tracking other bills, but the other major and negative bill would close Lakin, Hopemont and Jackie Withrow hospitals, plus the Manchin Senior Health Care Center. That bill, HB 2626, passed its first committee February 19 and resides in the House Finance Committee.

For occasional roundups of legislation that affects our members, go to the News section of our website. For questions or to share information, call (304) 347-4396 or email to info@uelocal170.org.