Virginia has had some form of Right-to-Work law on its books since 1947. Now the Republican state legislature would like to see that anti-union language immortalized in the state constitution.
The only thing standing in their way? Voters, who will have the opportunity to approve or deny the measure at the ballot box in November:
According to the Virginia Department of Elections, Virginia’s current right-to-work law states that union membership cannot be a condition of employment. If Virginia voters approved adding this into the constitution, it would make it much more difficult for labor laws to change in the future, according to Department of Elections materials.
The law, currently, could be amended by any future general assembly. If it is voted into the constitution, the amendment could only be changed by a future vote of the general public.
Passage of the amendment would make Right-to-Work laws virtually irreversible in Virginia. In essence, current Republicans in the commonwealth are seeking to control labor laws for future constituents who they will not personally represent:
[The amendment] forbids employers from requiring union membership as a condition of employment. It forbids agreements to this effect with unions, and it forbids any arrangement that allows a union to acquire “an employment monopoly in any enterprise.”
Even in one of the least labor-friendly states in the union, the amendment feels like overkill:
Arnold Outlaw, president of United Steelworkers Local 8888, said he and his members like to say Virginia isn’t “a right to work state, it’s a right to work for less state.” The head of the largest union at Newport News Shipbuilding said there’s no sense enshrining this law in the state constitution.
“We deal with it enough as it is every day,” he said.
Both sides say they are launching aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts, yet the new amendment remains firmly under the radar. If voters aren’t careful, future Virginians may find themselves locked into a deal they didn’t (get to) bargain for.