Workers Bill of Rights
What WV Can’t Wait For
We will make West Virginia the best place in America for workers–not the best place for exploiting them. Here’s our Workers Bill of Rights.
Whose Side We’re On
- Educators and school service personnel
- Public employees
- Strikers fighting for better wages and conditions
- Young people who want good jobs when they’re adults
… and more. Click the links above to read stories from the trail.
What We’re Up Against
“Don’t make us go West Virginia on you.”
Working class struggle runs through our veins. Our ancestors waged the bloodiest labor conflict in American history right here in these hills, over the right to unionize. At Blair Mountain, thousands of mineworkers–Black, white, and immigrant–marched together against company rule. They wore red bandanas to identify themselves in battle. 100 years later, teachers, school service personnel, and communications workers donned those same red bandannas to lead the country’s unions in a national strike wave. Thank goodness.
When workers win, everyone benefits. Who’s responsible for the 40-hour work week, employer health insurance, child labor laws, and paid sick days? Union workers. When did we have the strongest middle class? When union participation was at its highest.
With union membership gutted, it is no surprise that our state now faces historic levels of inequality and child poverty. Compared to our parents generation, jobs now are harder to get and harder to keep. They also pay less. It used to be that parents could raise their kids on the wages from one salary, just a generation ago. Now it can take three jobs, just to get by.
Bottom line: workers have become more and more productive, but we have received a smaller and smaller share of the pie. And you can feel it.
This story is true for so many of us. And things are even worse for the women who were out front in this recent strike wave: in most professions, women are compensated less than men for the same job. For Black and brown women, compensation is even worse. Solidarity means equal pay for equal work, no matter who you are.
The Good Old Boys at the Capitol want to blame us for the state of the economy–Jim Justice tells us that we just have to work harder, that we have to want a better economy more. We want it plenty. The truth is, the reason so many of us are struggling to get by is that more and more of our wealth–the wealth that we make–gets shipped out-of-state to CEOs, shareholders, and corporate executives.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
We will run the most pro-labor campaign in West Virginia history, on the side of all working people. That means we will fight to reverse so-called “Right to Work” and restore the Prevailing Wage. But it also means going farther. Every other state in the country is chasing the Amazons and Wal-Marts of the world, aiming to make their states the most welcoming to CEOs and the shareholders of out-of-state corporations. Our state has tried that.
Wal-Mart is the second largest employer in West Virginia, and our people are still piecing our incomes together. The way we create an economy that works in our favor is not by chasing those same companies who keep extracting our wealth, but by playing by our own rules and putting workers and local businesses first.
- Eliminate so-called “Right-to-Work.” Make it so that every worker who benefits from union representation is pitching in their fair share for that representation.
- Restore the Prevailing Wage. Ensure that workers employed under a public work contract are fairly compensated.
- Institute collective bargaining for public employees. Ensure that teachers, school service personnel, and all government employees have the right to organize. Ensure that all public employee unions have office space and paid time to conduct union duties.
- Strengthen and enforce the West Virginia Jobs Act. Make it so out-of-state companies are held accountable to hire locally. Explicitly prefer union companies in state contracts.
- Pass Wage Protection Laws. Ensure that workers’ pay is prioritized over creditors pay in the case of bankruptcy.
- End “at will” employment beyond a probationary period.
- Establish a Fair Workweek for West Virginia, that accounts for predictability pay, split-shift pay, on-call pay, and an advance-notice provision. Workers lose real money, time, and child care options when they cannot schedule their work lives.
- Pass the strongest laws in the country related to protecting the right to organize, and strike:
- Pass an excess compensation tax where large corporations are charged a tax based on the ratio of their lowest paid employee to their highest paid employee. Corporations with larger wage disparity will pay more, incentivizing fairer pay. No CEO should make more than 500x what a cashier makes. Revenue will help capitalize a State Bank for West Virginia.
- Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for all employees. No one should work a 40 hour work week and wonder how they’ll support their family. Out-of-state corporations with millionaire and billionaire CEOs can and should pay workers a living wage. For small businesses, the backbone of our economy, this can be harder. We plan to implement this change gradually, off-setting with tax cuts for small, local businesses so that these changes are paid for by large businesses that can afford them.
- Strengthen, police, and prosecute anti-trust, wage theft, bankruptcy, and other corporate crime statutes. Establish a 50-member Corporate Crime division in the State Police (see Prosecute Corrupt Politicians and Corporate Criminals Plan for full details) to investigate and bring charges against corporate criminals, focusing especially on unpaid payroll and use taxes by out-of-state corporations.
- Create a “West Virginia Certified” Program. Help more of our state’s wealth stay here by prioritizing union shops (through Project Labor Agreements), local businesses, and women- and minority-owned businesses in all state contracts.
- Establish an Earned Income Tax Credit. This is one more step in shifting the tax burden away from workers and families and onto the shareholders who benefit from our work (see our Robin Hood Tax Plan).
- Expand unemployment offices statewide to become full-fledged Workers Centers. Workers Centers are places where workers can file grievances, gain legal help, register to vote, find support for organizing their workplaces, access strike funds, report a corporate crime, organize a tenants union, find jobs with the Mountaineer Service Corps, get connected to human services, and gain training and technical assistance for starting worker-owned cooperatives or Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs). We will also re-write our code to make West Virginia the best place in America to start a worker-owned cooperative or ESOP, betting big on our own people
- Guarantee Earned Sick Days for every worker. Make it so no one has to come to work sick.
- Pass a Family Leave Program. Provide paid time off for workers to care for a loved one. Over time, expand the program to become the first Universal Family Care program in the country.
- Pass the nation’s strongest Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. Ensure that women are paid fairly, and that pregnant workers are not discriminated against.
- Ensure that every worker has equal protection under the law. End discrimination in employment (as well as housing), on the basis of gender or sexuality.
- Make it illegal for a company to give out executive bonuses during bankruptcy unless they have both 1) paid at least one full month of severance to workers, and 2) all worker obligations have been met, including pensions, pay, and healthcare.
- Give workers representation on company boards
- Through our Small Business Revolution plan
- Capitalize at least 200 worker-owned cooperatives each year, and
- Ensure that every small business receiving capital must not exceed a 10:1 pay ratio for CEO: workers.
- Provide free childcare for all essential workers. See our Protect Our Children plan.
- On state income taxes, for households making $91K or less, provide technology/remote work tax breaks that can be taken as an additional deduction.
- Protect Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). Pass safe staffing regulations, end mandated overtime (except for emergencies), and engage nurses and CNAs in efforts to reduce paperwork and streamline regulations–so they can spend more time caring for patients, and less time pleasing bureaucrats.
How We Pay For It
Most policies on this list require legal changes, not new allocations.
- $10 million/year will fund workers centers, in order to promote long-term policy change, unionization, and worker organizing.
- $91 million for a robust Earned Income Tax Credit is covered through our Robin Hood Tax Plan.
- Paid Family Leave is paid for by a payroll tax.
- Childcare is paid for through the Protect Our Children plan.
- Stronger corporate crime enforcement will generate significant new revenue, but will be covered in our corporate crime plan.
Every one of our New Deal plans was written by West Virginians.
- Our volunteers asked 11,000 of their neighbors, “What would you do if you were Governor?”
- Our candidates attended 197 Town Halls, taking notes in community centers, church basements, union halls, and small businesses.
- Educators met after work to start sketching out their perfect school.
- Nurses traded ideas on the picket line.
- Our county and constituency captains ratified a first platform in the fall of 2019 and updated it in the spring of 2020 to reflect the current pandemic.
But the legacy of this New Deal dates back to John Brown and Mother Jones, to the United Mine Workers of America and the suffragettes, to the Poor People’s Movement and the CIO.
No one politician or slate of candidates can win this plan alone. We need you.
If you have an idea for how to make this plan stronger, or if you would like to lend a hand to win it, contact our candidate for Governor Stephen Smith at email@example.com.