Constitutional Provision Will Protect Freedom and Jobs
By Timothy M. McConville, Esq.
Workplace choice, employee freedom, and better economic performance are part and parcel of the Right to Work package, which is why this November 8, Virginians should vote Yes to enshrine these Right to Work advantages in the Virginia Constitution.
Since 1947, Virginia’s Right to Work statute has ensured that no employee can be forced to join or pay dues to a union, leaving the decision of union membership and financial support where it belongs, with each individual working person. On the basis of protecting each worker’s freedom of association alone, the Right to Work principle should be protected by the adoption of a state constitutional amendment.
But the benefits do not stop there. Right to Work also brings significant economic benefits to the Commonwealth and its citizens. According to data compiled by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, Right to Work states have enjoyed higher private-sector job growth and larger wage increases over the past decade compared to their forced-unionism counterparts which include Maryland. After adjusting for states’ differing costs of living, residents in Right to Work states enjoy more disposable income than their non-Right to Work neighbors.
Virginia’s Right to Work principles help keep the state in the top ranks of surveys gauging business-friendly environments. CNBC recently released its list ranking the best states for business in 2016, and 15 of the top 20 states are Right to Work states. Virginia ranked 13th, a slight drop from 12th in 2015, and a signal that we need to protect Right to Work by adopting the constitutional amendment on election day. Of course, the connection between Right to Work and better economic performance should not come as a surprise. Business experts consistently rank the presence of Right to Work laws as one of the most important factors companies consider when deciding where to expand or relocate their facilities where they will create new jobs.
Right to Work laws also encourage unions to be more flexible and responsive in the workplace. Where workers cannot be forced to join or pay dues, union officials have to work harder to retain employee support. This encourages union officials to put workers’ interests first, rather than promoting their own power or pushing an agenda that is out of step with the rank-and-file.
Right to Work laws make economic sense, but protecting employee freedom has always been their most important feature. No worker should be forced to join or pay money to an organization he or she has no interest in supporting. The laws do nothing to impede employees from voluntarily joining or paying dues to a union; they simply ensure that no worker can be forced to hand over a portion of a hard-earned paycheck to union officials just to keep a job.
Poll after poll shows the American people overwhelmingly oppose forced union dues and membership, a view shared by rank-and-file union members. In the November 8 election, the only poll that really counts this year, Virginia business people and workers alike will have the opportunity to vote to approve the Right to Work amendment to the Virginia Constitution. I believe they should vote Yes.
Timothy M. McConville leads the labor and employment group at the law firm of Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, P.C. in Reston, Virginia. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the Board of the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, Inc. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @worklawguy.