Politics

Virginia Votes On Right To Work

Virginia State House: Sean Pavone/shutterstock

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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Virginia voters will be faced with two proposed constitutional amendments on Tuesday’s ballot, including a question about whether or not to amend the state’s constitution to reflect what is already in state law.

Voters will be asked whether or not the state’s constitution should be amended to include right-to-work language, which prohibits businesses from requiring employees to join a labor union as a condition of their employment.

Virginia’s right-to-work laws have been in place for 70 years, and advocates for the constitutional amendment say that by amending the constitution, the Commonwealth would further protect the current right-to-work laws, since changing the constitution is a complex, difficult task.

Currently, Virginia’s right-to-work law is codified under §40.1-59 of the Code of Virginia, and provides that any agreement or combination between an employer and a labor union or labor organization whereby (i) nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, (ii) membership in the union or organization is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or (iii) the union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any such enterprise is against public policy and illegal.

The proposed constitutional amendment appears on the Virginia ballot in the following language:

Should Article I of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to prohibit any agreement or combination between an employer and a labor union or labor organization whereby (i) nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, (ii) membership to the union or organization is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or (iii) the union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any such enterprise?

“Basically giving people a choice about whether or not a union is right for them is something we think we think is worth preserving,” said Virginia Chamber of Commerce member Ryan Dunn in an interview to a local CBS affiliate. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce is a proponent of the amendment, arguing that the state’s current laws benefit workers, and make Virginia a top competitor for business in the nation.

Labor unions are opposed to the amendment, characterizing it as “anti-union.” “It has nothing to do with rights,” said Gina Maglionico, communications director of Virginia’s AFL-CIO. “By design, a constitution is meant to protect the rights of citizens, not stifle them,” she argued. “Right-to-work laws are something of a misnomer. They do not guarantee anyone the right to have a job, nor do they guarantee any other workers’ rights. Federal law ensures that no one be forced to join a union — not Virginia’s right-to-work statute,” Maglionico asserted.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is coming out in opposition to the Right-to-Work constitutional amendment, but has previously been supportive of the state’s right-to-work status. “We are a great right-to-work state. We should never change that. It helps us do what we need to do to grow our businesses here in Virginia,” McAuliffe said in 2013, according to BearingDrift. McAuliffe is now urging voters to reject the proposed amendment in a state-wide robocall.

Virginia’s other proposed constitutional amendment would include language for a property tax exemption for spouses of certain emergency taxpayers.

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