By Tony Howard
President & CEO, Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce
On Nov. 8 Virginians will be asked to enshrine our state’s Right-to Work laws in our Constitution (Ballot Question 1). Every Virginian, without hesitation, should vote yes.
Since 1947, Virginia’s Right-to-Work statute has ensured that no employee or job seeker can be forced to join or pay dues to a union in order to have a job. It leaves the decision about union membership and financial support squarely where it belongs, with the individual.
It would be unthinkable to require a job seeker or employee to, for example, be a member of a particular political party or a specific civic association in order to have a job. Regardless of one’s personal opinion about unions, no one should be required to join a specific organization just so they can feed their family.
On the basis of protecting each worker’s right to freedom of association, the Right-to-Work principle should be incorporated into Virginia’s Constitution.
In addition, and in contrast to the rhetoric of those who oppose Right-to-Work, these laws bring significant economic benefits.
According to data compiled by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, Right-to-Work states have enjoyed higher private-sector job growth and larger wage increases over the past decade compared to their non-Right-to-Work counterparts. This includes our good friends in Maryland. In fact, after adjusting for states’ differing costs of living, residents in Right-to-Work states enjoy more disposable income than their non-Right to Work neighbors.
The connection between Right-to-Work and better economic performance should surprise no one. Independent, impartial business experts have consistently cited the presence of Right-to-Work laws as one of the most important factors companies consider when deciding where to expand or relocate their facilities, and consequently where they will create new jobs. If you look closely at CNBC’s 2016 list ranking the best states for business, you’ll see that 15 of the top 20 states are Right-to-Work states.
Virginia’s Right-to-Work principles have been a key factor in the Commonwealth consistently ranking near the top in surveys gauging business-friendly environments. While Virginia currently ranks 13th in CNBC’s ranking of top states to do business, that result has everything to do with our crumbling infrastructure and with increased competition from states emulating our business model. In fact, Virginia’s slide down the rankings is a warning that we need to protect Right-to-Work by adopting the constitutional amendment on Election Day
Finally, while in survey after survey, Republicans, Democrats and Independents, overwhelmingly say they support the workplace freedoms, efforts to rollback Right-to-Work laws have been gaining momentum in legislatures and courthouses nationally. In fact, Right-to-Work was ruled unconstitutional in Wisconsin and in West Virginia, a judge has delayed the implementation of its newly-passed Right-to-Work law. We cannot be complacent and think that cannot happen here in Virginia.
Today we are a Right-to-Work state but those laws can be amended or scrapped by any future General Assembly. But a constitutional prohibition can only be changed by a future constitutional amendment approved by the voters. Including this important policy in our Constitution will protect this basic right that ensures Virginia remains a competitive and attractive place for business and job creation.
Right-to-Work makes economic sense, and protecting employee freedom makes moral sense. Vote yes on Ballot Question 1 on Nov. 8.