FILE - Dick Saslaw, Virginia Senate Majority Leader

Dick Saslaw, Virginia Senate Majority Leader

More than two-thirds of Virginia voters support the commonwealth’s right-to-work laws, which prevent a person from being fired for refusing to join a union, according to a new poll.

In a poll of 600 likely Virginia voters conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, 68 percent of respondents said they support the state’s right-to-work laws. This includes a majority from both major parties: 81 percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Democrats. Seventy-four percent of independents also supported keeping these protections.

About 66 percent of respondents said they are against repealing Virginia’s right-to-work laws, while 32 percent said they favor repealing the law. Forty-three percent of voters strongly oppose a repeal.

The poll found that 71 percent of voters said they agreed with the statement that no person should be required to pay fees to a union or other private organization if they do not choose to. Only 26 percent of people said that it is fair if a worker is required to pay a fee to a union that represents them.

Virginia law prohibits contracts that would require a person to join a union as a condition of employment. It also prohibits an employer from requiring a nonunion employee to pay any dues to a union.

Some Democrats are seeking to repeal some or all of these protections now that their party has a majority in both chambers of the state Legislature.

Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, introduced House Bill 153, which would eliminate all of the state’s right-to-work protections and allow an employer to fire someone for choosing not to join a union.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Springfield, introduced Senate Bill 426, which takes a more moderate approach. Under his bill, an employer could not require that an employee join a union, but an employer could require that an employee pay “fair-use fees” to the union, which funds the union’s collective bargaining costs for the employee.

Some Democrats, including Gov. Ralph Northam, oppose fully repealing right-to-work protections. Northam has not publicly commented on Saslaw’s bill, but many of Saslaw’s opponents have said that his bill would have the same effect as a full repeal.

"It's clear Virginians from both sides of the aisle strongly support worker freedom and our state's right-to-work law," the state director of Americans for Prosperity Virginia, JC Hernandez, said in a statement. AFP Virginia commissioned the poll. 

"Virginia is ranked the top state in which to do business in part due to the economic freedoms of right-to-work," Hernandez said. "Repealing the law could put that rank at risk and force employees to join and fund unions as a condition of their employment. A union fee is money that could be better used to save, spend, or invest in themselves, their family, or their community. Workers shouldn’t have to choose between either supporting their families or keeping a job. Virginians overwhelmingly oppose repealing right-to-work protections and our state lawmakers should keep that in mind.”

F. Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow for VirginiaWorks, said the Public Opinion Strategies poll shows that right-to-work protections are something both parties can agree on. VirginiaWorks is a nonprofit that recently formed to oppose efforts to repeal right-to-work protections.

“It’s pretty clear cut, and it’s consistent with polls across the country,” Vernuccio said.

First and foremost, Vernuccio said right-to-work laws are about a worker’s freedom, but he said that right-to-work laws also are correlated with lower unemployment and greater job and wage growth. He said that these laws attract businesses to states.

Public Opinion Strategies, a public opinion research firm specializing in political, public affairs, public policy, and corporate positioning research, conducted the poll between Jan. 29 and Feb. 1. The margin of error is plus or minus four percent.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Tennessee for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.