The right of workers in private employment to form unions and bargain collectively with their employers is guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and related federal laws. The NLRA is preemptive, meaning that it supersedes state law in the areas that it covers. However, in areas not covered by the NLRA, such as the rights of public employees and the rights of private employees who are not engaged in interstate commerce, the states are free to make their own provisions. The federal protections are the governing law of the state for private employees engaged in interstate commerce.
The West Virginia Labor-Management Relations Act (LMRA) supplements the federal guarantees. The law covers private employers with 15 or more employees, and governs unfair labor practices, collective bargaining, arbitration, and mediation. Agricultural and domestic employees and individuals working for a parent or spouse are not covered by this law, nor are persons covered by the NLRA or the Railway Labor Act (WV Code Sec. 21-1A-1 et seq.).
Employees covered by this act may organize, form, join, or assist labor unions, may bargain collectively and engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining.
The law prohibits employers from:
• Interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of these rights
• Dominating or interfering in the formation or functions of any labor organization or contributing financially to it
• Discriminating in hiring or other conditions of employment in order to encourage or discourage membership in any labor organization
• Refusing to bargain collectively with legitimately elected representatives of employees