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"Right to Work" Repeal Still Divides Democrats

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A repeal of Virginia's "right to work" law has cleared several hurdles in the House of Delegates.

But Democrats are still not united on the issue.

For decades, labor groups in Virginia have wanted to repeal the 1940s-era “right to work” law, which opponents call a freeloader law. Basically it prevents employers from compelling their workers to pay union dues, which means that people who are not members of the union and don’t pay dues get all the advantages of being represented by the union.

When asked Thursday about why he does not support repealing this law, Governor Ralph Northam starts listing other agenda items he says will help labor.   "Let’s do things that are realistic in the commonwealth of Virginia this year, and that’s why I’m listing some things that are realistic,”  Northam says.

“Lots of people would say that is realistic," I note.

“Well we will have that discussion if and when it gets to my desk,” Northam adds.

Delegate Lee Carter of Manassas introduced the bill to repeal the right to work law.  “The only thing that makes it unrealistic is people like him saying it’s not realistic. Change never happens without a demand," Carter says.  "So we, working people in this commonwealth, are advancing that demand. We want that law gone.”

The bill has already passed sub-committee and committee, but it’s not on its way to the House floor just yet. First it has to get through the House Appropriations Committee because of the cost. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership estimates Virginia could lose as much as $25 million in general fund revenue if Carter’s bill is signed by the governor.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.