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WV Powerball Winner on the Losing Side of Labor Ruling

August 6, 2007

A West Virginia lottery winner is on the losing end of a new ruling in a labor dispute. Construction company owner Jack Whitaker has been in the news many times since winning the Powerball jackpot in 2002. In a new ruling, the National Labor Relations Board found that Whitaker's company violated federal labor law, after a worker organizing a union faced a demotion, a cut in pay and physical threats from Whitaker. Luke Begovich with the Carpenters Union Local 1911 was helping the workers organize. He says the ruling should be a lesson for business owners who ignore labor laws.

"It doesn't matter how much money you have or what you feel like your company can do. You're not above the law."

The ruling requires the company to make good on wages and benefits lost because of the demotion, and promise to follow labor laws by avoiding intimidation, threats, and retaliation against workers involved in the union effort.

Begovich adds that the ruling is also a lesson that workers can win in cases of intimidation and harassment. But he cautions that cases like this can be an uphill battle for workers, and Congress missed an opportunity to level the playing field when it failed to pass the Employee Free Choice Act this summer.

"This would really help a lot of people who are afraid of intimidation. This is a way that we can assure people that, if they want to join or form a union where they work, they'll have that opportunity."

Rob Ferrett/Eric Mack, Public News Service - WV