FILE - Virginia State Capitol (House of Representatives)

The House of Representatives chamber in the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Virginia.

Democratic candidates running for Virginia’s House of Delegates overwhelmingly oppose the state’s right-to-work laws while Republicans want to maintain it, according to a survey conducted by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

The commonwealth’s right-to-work law prohibits an employer from requiring that a person join a union as a condition of employment. A person can still join a union and pay dues under this law, but no one can be forced to do so.

The Virginia Chamber sent out a survey to every candidate, asking them several questions about policy. All of the Democratic incumbents who answered the question said that they oppose the law; all but one of the Democratic candidates who are not incumbents also oppose the law. Jim Barker, a longshot candidate for Virginia’s 6th District, was the exception.

Every Republican candidate and Republican incumbent who answered the question said that they wanted to maintain Virginia’s right-to-work laws.

A spokesperson for the Virginia House Democrats did not respond to several requests for comment from The Center Square about whether Democrats would seek to repeal the current law if they get a majority in the House of Delegates. Currently, Republicans have a 51-49 majority in the House, but a recent many think a redrawing of the district maps has given Democrats an edge in the upcoming elections.

J. Garren Shipley, communications director for Majority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, told The Center Square via email that right-to-work laws have been a part of Virginia’s economic success since they were passed.

“Republicans support right to work for two main reasons: freedom and prosperity,” Gilbert said. “People should have the right to form and join a union if they so choose. With right to work, Virginians have that choice – they may join a union if they choose, or they can opt not to join a union. Employment isn’t contingent on joining the union, and workers are free to do what they wish.”

Shipley said right-to-work laws make businesses more likely to expand and that repealing these laws would cause businesses to flee the state and move into states that still have right-to-work protections.

Free-market groups have also been on the forefront of promoting right-to-work legislation.

“A repeal of Virginia’s Right to Work law would reverberate all across the United States, because we’re recognized as such a pro-business state in so many places,” Stephen Haner, a senior fellow for state and local tax policy at the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, said. The institute is a free-market think tank based in Virginia.

“It’s such an unprecedented step the actual impact and enforcement will have to be worked out, probably with litigation, but ultimately thousands of Virginia workers would face mandatory union dues which are now not deducted from their paychecks,” Haner said. “Their choice on joining the union or not, a free choice they should control, would go away. The job and the union membership become one.”

Patrick Semmens, a vice president at National Right to Work, told The Center Square that there would be adverse consequences on workers’ freedom and economic prosperity if right-to-work legislation was repealed.

“Without Right to Work, union officials demand workers pay tribute to a union or else be fired. Meanwhile imposing forced dues also imperils the economic advantages that Right to Work enables,” Semmens said. “For example, in 2017, the most recent year for which full data is available, Virginia has a cost of living-adjusted, after-tax income per household that was over $13,000 higher than that of the average non-Right to Work state. Right to Work is also proven contributor to job creation and repealing Right to Work would put many jobs at risk, including the over 25,000 jobs Amazon is planning to bring to Virginia by 2030. Those jobs were already won by Right to Work Virginia over forced unionism New York, where Amazon scrapped its expansion plans largely because New York union bosses were demanding Amazon workers be swept into union forced dues ranks.”

Although most Democrats running for State Senate also oppose right-to-work laws, four candidates said that they support it.

Staff Writer

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Ohio 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.