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1 Step Forward, 2 Steps Back: VA’s Minor “Right-to-Work” Victory Countered by Losses in SD, AL

Good luck with that.

Good luck with that.

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Right-to-work proponents scored victories in Alabama and South Dakota on Tuesday, surprising exactly no one.

South Dakota rejected a ballot measure aimed at overturning the state’s “right-to-work” law, while Alabama approved a measure that enshrines the anti-union legislation in the state constitution. Elsewhere, Virginia rejected a similar ballot measure that would have also constitutionally guaranteed right-to-work. Via Bloomberg BNA:

“These ballot initiatives are not about economic data,” Gordon Lafer, a political economist and an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center, told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 8, before the election results were released.

“In Alabama and Virginia, they’re taking what’s already state law and putting it into the constitution,” he told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail message. “This is either just political showmanship or represents fears on the part of employer lobbies that the population in those states may be changing enough that in the foreseeable future the legislature might overturn the RTW law.”

While Virginia was one of a few bright spots for unions on Tuesday, labor groups struggled in Alabama and South Dakota. In Alabama, the measure adding “right-to-work” language to the constitution was approved by a margin of nearly 70%. Although it doesn’t change state policy, it does solidify what labor unions feel is a free pass for free-riders for future generations:

The strong approval will not affect state laws significantly. Alabama has had a right-to-work law on the books since 1953. Conservative and business groups pushed to add it to the state constitution to further shore it up.

Meanwhile in South Dakota, nearly 80% of voters rejected a measure that would have allowed unions to hold non-members financially accountable for services rendered. More from BNA:

Measure No. 23 was aimed at closing what unions described as the “free-rider loophole’’ in state law, Jason George, special projects director for Local 49 of the International Union of Operating Engineers in Minneapolis, told Bloomberg BNA Nov. 8.

Nonunion workers wouldn’t have been required to join a union if the measure had passed, but unions would have had the ability to charge them fees for the services they receive through union contracts, he said.

The results do not alter current policy, but they reinforce a troubling trend with respect to attitudes toward organized labor in certain states.


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