Virginia’s House of Delegates will consider legislation repealing the state’s Right to Work law during the 2019 legislative session, beginning next month.
The bill, HB1806, was filed by Delegate Lee Carter (D-Manassas), a self-described “socialist” lawmaker who took office following last year’s “wave” election which brought into office a freshman class of legislators hailing from the party’s left wing.
Virginia’s Right to Work law, in place since 1947, provides that workers may not be forced to join a labor union or pay union membership dues as a condition of employment.
During his election, Carter campaigned against Right to Work, making his feelings on the law known when he shared a video of himself shredding a letter from the National Right to Work Committee. He later made his position clear, tweeting to the Virginia Chamber of commerce, “Yes, I will work to overturn Virginia’s RTW laws.”
By filing HB1806, Carter has made good on that promise.
Carter, a close ally of union bosses, also filed legislation granting government employees the right to strike and walk off the job, even when it would close public schools or threaten public safety.
First enacted eight decades ago, Virginia’s Right to Work law had long enjoyed bipartisan support, until the 2017 House elections shifted the Democratic caucus leftward.
Previously, Democratic leaders had insisted their members were not trying to repeal the law.
“We don’t have a right-to-work issue here,” minority leader David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) told NBC29 in 2012. “No one’s arguing that it should be repealed in Virginia, so I don’t see what the rationale is.”
Toscano made the same argument during a 2016 floor debate between himself and Del. Dickie Bell (R-Staunton), who patroned a Right to Work constitutional amendment out of concern that legislation like Carter’s may eventually be filed.
“I’d ask the gentleman in light of his worry about a challenge, can he point to any time that this Right to Work statute has been challenged in the sense that legislation has been offered to overturn it or repeal it?” Toscano asked of Bell.
“If it is your preference to wait until there is a pressing need, to wait until an emergency, exists, that’s fine,” Bell responded to the Democratic leader. “On the other hand, if you choose to be proactive, and have safeguards in place so that those needs never arise, then you would be standing with me on Right to Work.”
“The only thing that changes is that we have permanent protection for our workers.”
Carter’s legislation explicitly authorizes the creation of “Agency shops,” in which workers are required to join the union or pay membership dues. HB1806 provides:
§ 40.1-54.4. Union security provisions authorized.
A. As used in this section:
“Agency shop” means an arrangement that requires an employee, as a condition of continued employment, either to join the recognized labor union or to pay the labor union a service fee in an amount not to exceed the standard initiation fee, periodic dues, and general assessments of the labor union.
“Union shop” means a business establishment, or part thereof, in which terms and conditions of employment for all employees are fixed by agreement between the employer and a labor union and in which membership in a labor union is made a condition of employment, but in which the employer may hire nonunion workers, provided that they become members after a stated period.
B. A collective bargaining agreement may include a provision establishing an agency shop or a union shop. If such a provision is agreed to, the employer shall enforce it by deducting from the salary payments to members of the bargaining unit the dues required of membership in the labor union, or, for nonmembers thereof, a fee equivalent to such dues.
Carter’s legislation will be heard during the 2019 session, which convenes next month, on January 9th.
Republican leaders have vowed to oppose any effort to repeal Right to Work.