Virginia Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, introduced legislation that would repeal some of the commonwealth’s right-to-work protections, which have been in effect for more than 70 years.
Currently, Virginia’s right-to-work laws prohibit compulsory union dues for private sector workers who are not members of a union. Although Senate Bill 427 would not permit an employer to charge full dues for non-union workers, it would permit an employer to charge partial dues as a condition of employment.
These compulsory dues, which the legislation calls “fair share fees,” would be used to pay for the union’s collective bargaining services, which it provides to all employees in a collective bargaining unit. When a union has exclusive representation authority, it negotiates contracts for both members and non-members; workers are unable to negotiate their own contracts. This new law would permit an employee to be fired if he or she does not pay the fair share fees.
During the campaign, Saslaw said that he would not seek to repeal the commonwealth’s right-to-work laws. The Center Square reached out to Saslaw for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
Although this bill does not repeal all right-to-work protections in Virginia law, the National Right to Work Committee (NRTW) is accusing Saslaw of going back on his word.
”Make no mistake about it: If Virginia passes any law which forces workers to pay union dues – or ‘fees, by any name – to get or keep a job, that constitutes repeal of Virginia’s Right to Work Law,” Mark Mix, president of NRTW, said in a news release. “That’s true regardless of any word games union-label legislators attempt to play around the bill.”
In a phone interview, Mix told The Center Square that choosing to join a union or not to join a union should be completely voluntary. He said that there are no laws that prevent a person from joining a union or participating in a union and that there should be no laws that require one to do that, either. He also said that repealing right-to-work laws would make the commonwealth less business friendly.
Mix said he is concerned that the legislation was introduced by the majority leader because that often gives a bill a sense of priority. However, he said that some Democrats in swing districts might vote against the legislation out of concern for their re-election.
In last November’s elections, Democrats flipped both chambers of the General Assembly from red to blue.