Could Virginia's Right-to-Work Law Split Democrats in Richmond?

Jan 7, 2020

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Democrats have a long list of labor issues to tackle after they take control of the General Assembly later this week. But, one of labor’s top issues is dividing Democrats.

It’s call the Right-to-Work law, and it’s been around since the 1940’s. Basically it prevents employers from compelling their employees to pay union dues. The end result is it makes unions in Virginia much weaker than most other states.

Delegate Lee Carter is a Democrat from Manassas, and he doesn’t call it the Right-to-Work Law. He calls it the Freeloader Law. 

“This law was designed from the start to bankrupt unions by making them bargain on behalf of people who don’t contribute for the benefits of that bargaining,” Carter says.

He wants to repeal the law, which has long been a thorn in the side of labor unions in Virginia. But there’s a problem. Other Democrats aren’t on board, at least not some of them.

Senator Scott Surovell is a Democrat from Fairfax County, and he says this year isn’t the year to do it. 

“Inflicting that kind of change on the Virginia employment system all at once this fast I think is something that we need to think about and look at and prepare for more than just walking in in one session and declaring that’s what we are going to do on July 1," explains Surovell. "It’s a big change in law.”

Carter says it is a big change that needs to happen now, this year. But in order to make that happen, first he’ll need to persuade other members of the Democratic caucus.

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