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Justin Williams: Bills limiting payroll deductions aim to rob workers of choices (Gazette)

 

Mountaineers have the right to control their paychecks free from government interference.

This year our Legislature faces the biggest challenge West Virginia has ever confronted, a $500 million budget deficit. Finding a solution will not be an easy task. There is no magic bullet that will fix this huge problem. I do not envy our elected officials; difficult decisions are going to have to be made.

One thing that won’t help cure our budget woes is attacking our hardworking contractors and their employees’ right to organize. Every legislative session we see bills with clever names and I’m sure this session will be no different, but that’s exactly what we don’t need.

We don’t need another ruse used to attack working people. These workers are the ones who built and are still building our country; the roads, bridges and schools we all use every day.

These people have earned the right to be treated with dignity and shown the respect to make their own decisions.

We’ve heard over and over that it’s not our government’s job to pick winners and losers and that we need less government intrusion in business; I could not agree more.

Government should leave individuals and businesses alone to negotiate their contracts. The so-called “paycheck protection act,” better known as the paycheck deception act, does exactly the opposite.

Legislation like this adds additional and unnecessary regulations and forces contractors to jump through more bureaucratic hoops in order to deduct already agreed to union dues.

The intent and impact of bills like this is to limit an individual’s First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. The other side will claim this is about workers’ choice, when in fact union members already have a choice. No one can be forced to join a union and members have a vote to decide who leads and how their money is spent.

Additionally, these regulations are only placed on unions and union contractors, not other employers. All we want is to play by the same rules as everyone else. Let us decide how we spend our paychecks, not our elected officials.

What’s worse is that these laws may also harm our communities as a whole. When paycheck deception laws are passed they have the ability to restrict all kinds of paycheck deductions: direct deposit, 401(k), family expenses and charitable deductions. Many people, including union members, voluntarily donate to organizations like the United Way through paycheck deductions.

These laws like the “paycheck protection/deception act” would make that process more difficult for these charitable groups. What’s framed as a protection really isn’t a protection at all but a shot aimed right at every working person who gives back to their union or their local community organization.

Just like our state motto says, Montani Semper Liberi, and we mountaineers should be free to make decisions about our paychecks without government interference.

Whether union dues or car loans, employees should have the freedom to choose which payroll deductions to have. There are numerous deductions that take place in each paycheck and union dues create no more work for an employer than your retirement or house payment. Please let your legislators know that you support your neighbor’s ability to make the best decision for their paychecks.

Justin Williams is the political director for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 132 based in Charleston.

Capito should hold public forum on plan for ACA replacement

Editor:

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito took the first step toward repealing Obamacare by voting for a bill that will make it easy for the Senate to gut the program. Congress plans to move to repeal the program in the next few weeks.

Obamacare is not a perfect program, but it helped many, many West Virginians who were previously uninsured get access to coverage. According to an analysis by the Urban Institute, a non-partisan think tank, 184,000 West Virginians will lose their health insurance coverage under the repeal that Senator Capito supports.

We’re supporters of Obamacare, but — wherever you stand on the issue — we’re sure you would agree with us that when 184,000 West Virginians stand to lose their current health insurance, it merits a public conversation, one in which Senator Capito explains her position and hears from constituents with a diversity of opinions.

Yet, we’ve called Senator Capito’s office, and they’ve told us that she doesn’t have a single public appearance scheduled in the state in the next few weeks. That means no town halls, no public forums, no speaking engagements — and no opportunity for ordinary West Virginians, on both sides of the issue, to share their perspectives on such a critical piece of legislation.

We urge Senator Capito not to vote to repeal Obamacare until she holds a public forum to talk about how she plans to replace it. We — her constituents — deserve it.

Clare DiSalvo and Ace Parsi

Morgantown