© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How a long-standing labor law in Virginia could impact elections this year

Mallory Noe-Payne
Radio IQ

Labor issues have taken an increased role in politics in recent years now that employees of local governments have started unionizing. Labor issues are also taking a role on the campaign trail this year.

For years, some Democrats have wanted to overturn a 1940s-era restriction on unions known as the Right to Work law, which limits the power of unions by preventing employers from requiring employees to join a union as a condition of employment. Republicans are hoping this will be a winning issue for them on the campaign trail, targeting Democrats in Hampton Roads and in northern Virginia who are on the record as wanting to overturn the law.

Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington says this might have some traction with voters.

"It may be a very effective issue in those cases where you can really draw attention to what candidates have said. Virginia has a virulent, aggressive anti-union history," Farnsworth says. "And it's not clear to me that Virginia has changed as much as some of these Democrats supporting an end to Right to Work wish Virginia has changed."

David Ramadan at George Mason University's Schar School says labor politics also might influence the ability of candidates to raise money from the business community.

"The minute that you label that candidate as supportive of the elimination of Right to Work, the money is going to stop going to that candidate," says Ramadan.

When Democrats controlled the General Assembly and the governor's office, they did not have the votes to overturn the Right to Work law. Now, they're in a situation where even if they were able to pass a bill, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin would be expected to veto it.

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

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.