An Effort to Repeal Virginia's "Right to Work" Law Has Been Shelved

Feb 10, 2020

Delegate Lee Carter, D-Manassas, has been trying to repeal the state's "Right to Work" law for years. He says he will try again next year.
Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber

The effort to repeal Virginia’s right to work law has failed, at least for now.

Labor leaders were thinking this could finally be their year. Now that Democrats are in power, they hoped, Virginia could finally ditch the 1940’s-era “right to work” law, which opponents call a freeloader law. Basically it prevents employers from compelling their workers to pay union dues. That means that people who are not members of a union and don’t pay union dues get all the advantages of being represented by the union.

But they faced a problem: Democratic Governor Ralph Northam said repealing the right to work law is unrealistic.

“We will have that discussion if and when it gets to my desk,” said the Democratic governor.

As it turns out, the governor will not be having that discussion. The New Democratic majority in the House killed the bill by not putting it on the agenda for the last Appropriations Committee meeting before the crossover day deadline.

Delegate Lee Carter is a Democrat from Manassas who has been trying to overturn the right to work law for years. 

“It died a quiet death in Appropriations," said Carter. "But that doesn’t stop the public pressure for this bill. So, the bill will be back next year.”

But next year, the bill will face the same problem with the governor. Labor leaders are hoping to make this a major issue in the primary for governor next year, identifying a candidate for governor who will commit to repealing the 1940’s-era right to work law before he — or she — moves into the Executive Mansion.

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