Making West Virginia Work for Working People

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The welfare of working people has taken a lot of hits in recent decades, leaving too many West Virginians struggling to survive, let alone thrive.

Labor protections and organized labor are critical components of a just, fair, level-playing-field economy that works for the people. Income inequality and economic injustice are the predictable results of the tidal wave of attacks on organized labor and the roll back of worker protections in recent decades. The billion dollar corporations and their billionaire owners who pressed their corrupt or inept hired hands (legislators) into passing their anti-worker agenda now have just what they wanted: cheap labor with government subsidizing their basic needs, along with sky-rocketing profits for the corporate owners and top executives.

I'm honored and humbled to have received endorsements from the hard working people of the United Mine Workers of America, the West Virginia AFL-CIO, and the dedicated educators of the West Virginia Education Association, and I look forward to working with them and other labor groups to improve the lives of working people in West Virginia. Organized labor not only advocates for the welfare of their own members, but also creates a rising tide that does lift all ships, because when they help improve working conditions and raise wages for working people, those improvements spread throughout the economy, not just to their own members. This critical component of a just economy worked pretty well for generations in America before the tragic decline of organized labor in recent decades as labor was undermined and largely disempowered by corporate greed and political games. 

In recent years, the minimum wage hasn't kept pace with the cost of living; we've seen catastrophic increases in health care costs; and too many jobs won't give workers the full time hours that they require to get any benefits. Those and hundreds of other hits are making it just too hard for working people to get the fair pay and good benefits they need to support their families and have good lives.

Repeal of prevailing wage, union-busting "right to work" laws, and endless other attacks on organized labor and worker rights have decimated the ability of workers to effectively organize and negotiate fair working conditions and fair compensation for their workers.

Despite representing a district and state with many working people who rely on labor protections and many who also struggle to survive on very low wages, my opponent persistently votes against the needs of working people. He supported & voted for the repeal of prevailing wage in 2015. He sponsored & voted for the union-busting "right to work" laws which became law in 2016. My opponent has even voted against the very modest raises in WV's minimum wage when it was last raised in 2015, despite his vote against it.

Working people deserve to be treated respectfully and fairly. As a small business owner and employer (at our family owned veterinary hospital), I've always *applauded* increases in the minimum wage and would similarly welcome other improvements for labor protections for working people. Improved employment standards just make it easier for ethical businesses like ours to better compensate our own staff while still maintaining competitive fees to our clients, because the mandated improvements make all our competitors raise their wages, too, so it's a level playing field.

When we bought our vet hospital in 2004, the minimum wage was still $5.15/hr, and every time the minimum wage has increased (it's $8.75/hr now, and due for some good increases, IMHO), we've gleefully nudged up our pay scale. Our staff is happy, our community is stronger for it, our state's people thrive, and our clients are better able to afford our services since they make more money in their jobs, too. It's a win-win-win-win. It is entirely possible to be pro-business AND pro-people. I've seen it in my own business, and I know it to be true. And, besides, being pro-people is *just the right thing to do*, and that's the bottom line.

Even when we have had employees who technically could have been classified as exempt from overtime laws due to their management roles and legal loopholes in the overtime laws, as a respectful and responsible small employer, I've never classified an employee as "exempt" from overtime, instead gladly paying them their earned time-and-a-half when they are needed to work more than 40 hours in a week. Many businesses abuse these "exemptions" to force low level supervisors and managers to work tons of hours with hourly pay rates as low or lower than the folks they supervise! This over time abuse was supposed to be fixed federally during the previous administration, but those new rules were cancelled by the federal government recently. The federal government's failure does NOT mean West Virginia has to keep allowing our workers to be exploited. Just like states can legislate our own (higher) minimum wage (as we do in WV), we can also legislate overtime rules, and if the federal government won't fix overtime rules to protect low and middle income workers from exploitation, we can do it as a state.

Worker protections matter. Organized labor matters. Improving the lives of working people is the right thing to do.

Let's fix this, West Virginia.