By Tony Howard
The comparison is stunning.
Though Northern Virginia’s and Maryland’s DC suburbs have similar demographics, levels of educational attainment and proximity to our Nation’s Capital, the difference in job growth over the past eight years is substantial.
According to the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, while Northern Virginia added 160,000 jobs since 2012, the Maryland suburbs have created less than half that total, or 77,000 jobs. In the past two years, Maryland suburbs saw employmentdecline.
What can explain the difference in job growth between two communities that clearly share many of the same advantages?
The answer is obvious. Government policies.
While state and local governments in Maryland too often see businesses as cash cows to fund pet projects, or targets for onerous new regulations, Virginia has long had a bipartisan commitment to maintaining a strong business climate that rests on sensible rules and taxation levels.
Sadly, some politicians in Richmond are looking to change or eliminate those policies that have made Virginia our nation’s Best Place to Do Business (CNBC), with America’s Best Quality of Life (Forbes), Best Workforce (CNBC) and top 10 among states for lowest unemployment and poverty rates and highest household incomes.
Among the important government policies that have kept Virginia and Northern Virginia strong and prosperous is our right-to-work law.
Virginia’s right-to-work law is about worker freedom and choice. The law mandates that no employee can be forced to join a union or pay union dues against their will as a condition of employment.It does not ban unions or prohibit union activity. In fact, union officials know Right to Work laws strengthen unions. Because it makes them work harder to serve their members, since those members have the option to quit their union but not quit their job.
Right-to-work laws support workers and lead to higher wages. Since 2010, incomes in right-to-work states grew 50% faster than in states without these laws.
If Virginia’s General Assembly were to eliminate or weaken our right-to-worklaws, it will result in lost jobs for Virginia.We know this is true becauseright-to-work states create jobs at nearly twice the rate of states without these worker protections.Our job growth last year compared to DC and Maryland demonstrates this.
We also knowthe states that Virginia regularly competes with, including North Carolina and Texas, as well as border states like West Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, are right-to-work states.To repeal right to work in Virginia will significantly diminish our economic competitiveness.
Gutting the law by forcing employees to pay a union fee without having to join that union is nearly as unconscionable as forcing them into a union. It denies our fellow Virginians their Constitutional right to free association and creates a government mandated right to pick their wallets.
Particularly hard-hit would-be Virginia’s rural areaswhere manufacturers and logistics companies are more likely to locate, according to Dr. Terry Clower, Director for the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University.
This will further hasten the growing divide between Northern Virginia and the rest of the state, while worsening income inequality between our region and our fellow Virginians.
Hopefully, wiser heads will prevail. Governor Northam, a Democrat, opposesrepealing the law.“I can’t foresee Virginia taking actions [to] repeal of the right-to-work law,” the Governor recently told his Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates. Virginia’s U.S. Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, also Democrats, have also been quoted expressing opposition to right to work repeal.
It seems these Virginia leaders appreciate the law’s beneficial impact on creating high-paying jobs for their constituents and generating tax revenues to fund our schools, public safety, roads and other priorities that make Loudoun County and Virginia among the best places in America to live, work and raise a family.
Tony Howard is President and CEO of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce.