Boosted by ample Big Labor money and manpower flowing into their campaigns from out of state, union-label Democratic politicians seized control of both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly last fall.
Soon after the November returns came in, state AFL-CIO bosses and other vocal proponents of forced unionism began calling on the new majority leaders of the Virginia state Senate and House of Delegates to seize the chance to destroy the Old Dominion’s 73-year-old right-to-work law.
On Jan. 7, after disingenuously suggesting during last year’s state campaigns that right-to-work protections for employees in Virginia would not be in jeopardy if his party took over control of the General Assembly, newly-minted Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, Fairfax County Democrat, introduced legislation that would eliminate those protections.
The Saslaw compulsory-unionism bill, otherwise known as S.B. 426, would rewrite state labor law by empowering union bosses to get Virginia workers fired for refusal to pay fees to a union they don’t want, and would never belong to voluntarily. While Mr. Saslaw tries to disguise it, that is a repeal of right-to-work. In the state House of Delegates, avowed socialist Lee Carter, Manassass Democrat, has introduced H.B. 153, right-to-work repeal legislation that at least doesn’t pretend to be anything else.
Right-to-work destruction, no matter what you call it, will have grave consequences. Employees who refuse to fork over their hard-earned money to Big Labor will lose their jobs, plain and simple. And many of the workers whose paychecks will be pillaged are actually getting paid less as a consequence of being under union monopoly control. Union-boss allies like Richard Rothstein, now a distinguished fellow with the AFL-CIO-founded Economic Policy Institute, have admitted as much.
Right-to-work destruction will also be a huge economic setback for Virginia. Opponents of compulsory unionism have been saying that all along. And now the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget (DPB), a state executive agency controlled by appointees of Big Labor-backed Gov. Ralph Northam, has publicly agreed it will have disastrous consequences.
At a meeting last July with state AFL-CIO chief Doris Crouse-Mays that was secret at the time, Mr. Northam was reportedly ready to discuss a “potential rollback of right-to-work,” along with other union-boss policy objectives. But he and his appointees know the reinstitution of forced union financial support would repeal job-creating business investments, and thus quash many opportunities for Virginians who want to provide better for themselves and their families.
The DPB’s fiscal impact statement on H.B. 153 reports on a number of concerns raised by another state agency, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), whose board is made up largely of gubernatorial appointees:
“Over the past 18 months, Virginia announced nearly 60 projects in manufacturing and supply chain sectors that represented … $6 billion in capital investments. VEDP believes many of these investments would not have occurred” absent right-to-work protections in Virginia.
“VEDP is currently working on 349 potential projects in the manufacturing and supply chain sectors with … more than $11 billion in capital investment. … Based on the feedback of site-selection consultants, VEDP’s position is that Virginia’s competitiveness for these potential projects will be materially compromised” if legislation destroying the right-to-work “were to advance.”
While the fiscal impact statement forecasting a disastrous loss of competitiveness for the state of Virginia putatively pertains only to H.B. 153, in reality it applies just as much to S.B. 426, which would render the Old Dominion compulsory-unionism in everything but name.
Right after the fiscal impact statement became public, H.B. 153 sailed through a legislative committee in the House of Delegates, and Senate action on S.B. 426 may be imminent. National Right to Work Committee members in Virginia, along with an array of allies, are fighting furiously to block both bills, but the outcome remains uncertain as this is written.
Of course, Mr. Northam, whose own appointees publicly acknowledge these schemes are already damaging Virginia’s economy, can put a stop to the power grab immediately by announcing he will veto any anti-right-to-work legislation that reaches his desk. The question is whether he has it in him to do the right thing for his state and its citizens.
• Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Committee, based in Springfield, Virginia.