About 19,000 Virginians would face a pay cut if the commonwealth fully repeals its current right-to-work protections, according to a report issued by the nonprofit VirginiaWorks.
The commonwealth’s right-to-work laws prohibit contracts that would require union membership as a condition of employment. It prevents a worker from being fired if he or she does not wish to join a union and allows that worker to not pay union dues.
If these protections are repealed, thousands of Virginians likely would be forced to pay union dues or risk being fired from their jobs. According to the report, the average private sector union dues are $750 annually, which would be taken from a worker’s paycheck.
“The freedom to spend your money as you wish, and not to spend it to advance causes or organizations you oppose, is under assault in Virginia as political leaders attempt to repeal or weaken the Commonwealth’s right-to-work law,” F. Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow for VirginiaWorks, said in the report, which was released Tuesday. “If these efforts succeed, thousands of Virginians will be required to pay union dues or agency fees to unions they do not support. These working families would instantly see a pay cut.”
If right-to-work is repealed, the report notes that labor unions in Virginia will receive about $14.5 million additionally every year. Nationally, unions spent slightly more than $2 billion on politics in 2018, the report said. Labor unions traditionally spend that money on Democratic candidates.
Although opponents of right-to-work laws argue that they bring down wages, Vernuccio told The Center Square in a phone interview that households in the commonwealth earn $13,000 more annually than the average non-right-to-work state. Although households in right-to-work states take in less money on average than households in non-right-to-work states, this is not the case when the cost of living is taken into account. Rather, he cited a report from the Michigan-based Mackinac Center, which found that workers in right-to-work states earn 4 percent more money when the cost of living is calculated.
Virginia was ranked the top state for business by CNBC in 2019. Vernuccio said he worries the state could decrease in competitiveness if these laws are reversed. He said right-to-work laws also correlated with lower unemployment and more job growth.
Some Democrats have been pushing for a repeal of Virginia’s right-to-work protections after the party took control of both chambers of the General Assembly in November’s elections. Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, introduced House Bill 153, which would fully repeal the protections. Some Democrats, however, have come out against a full repeal.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Springfield, introduced Senate Bill 427, which would not fully repeal right-to-work protections, but it would institute “fair-use fees,” which would allow contracts that require a person to pay partial union dues to cover the costs associated with the collective bargaining services of a union.
Opponents say that Saslaw’s bill would have the same effect as a full repeal.