STONECREST, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 28: Georgia Democratic Senate Candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael … [+]
A Democratic candidate to replace Justin Fairfax (D) as Lieutenant Governor Sean Perryman wrote a Washington Post, published on Christmas Day, calling on Virginia lawmakers to repeal the Commonwealth’s right to work. The Virginia Right to Work Act, which has been on the books for 73 years, protects workers from being forced to join a union as a condition of employment and pay dues.
What Perryman calls for in his quest to become the second highest office in the Virginia state government is likely to be music to the ears of union leaders and lobbyists, as well as to many of the seated Democratic legislators in Richmond. However, if Virginia lawmakers followed Perryman’s advice and abolished the right to work, Virginia would buck a national trend that has been one of the major policy developments of the last decade.
At the beginning of the last decade, be it 2010 or 2011, the prospects for an expansion of state laws on the right to work looked bleak. Less than half of the states at the time, 22 to be precise, had laws on the right to work on the books. The youngest state to enact the right to work at the time was Oklahoma, which occurred in 2001 almost a decade earlier.
As it would happen, the last decade, particularly the Obama era, has been banner years for expanding the right to work in the states. Republicans took control of many state legislatures in 2010, a wave election that came at just the right time for the GOP as it came months before the redistribution and redistribution in Congress. What followed was a golden era for the expansion of the right to work, at least when compared to the previous thirty plus years.
In the four years between 2012 and 2016, five states passed new laws on the right to work. Compare that to the three and a half decades between 1976 and 2011, when only four states passed the right to work. Today there are 27 states with labor laws.
More surprising to many than the number of new states with the right to work in the past decade is where these new labor protection regulations were enacted. The newest states to have the right to work include a number of traditional union strongholds. Between 2012 and 2016, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Kentucky and West Virginia passed a law on the right to work that now protects workers in those states from being forced to join and fund a union as a condition of employment.
The number of states with the right to work has increased by more than 22% over the past decade. The number of states with the right to work has not only increased, but also recorded population growth that is above the national average.
Most of the states that receive convention seats are labor states. Most of the states that are losing seats are not.
“Studies show that the right to work has seen employment growth twice as fast as it has without that status in the past decade. This explains why such a diversity of states has been included in the right to work column,” said former GOP of the US House Whip Eric Cantor & former Congressman Barbara Comstock (R), wrote in a February 2020 Washington Post statement. “Mangum Economics estimates the abolition of the right to work in partnership with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce Virginia’s economy would cost more than $ 1 billion annually. That means decreasing the number of quality jobs in the Commonwealth, reducing upward mobility and hurting the everyday Virginians. “
Indeed, Americans have been voting with their feet for the right to work for the past few decades as these states have proven more receptive to new investment and job creation than forced union states. Thanks to this trend, the clout of the right-to-work states on Capitol Hill will increase.
Of the 10 states projected to lose seats through reallocation in 2021 (Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia), only three states are entitled to work. Two of these three states, West Virginia and Michigan, which are about to lose their seats in Congress, only enacted their right to work laws in the last decade. Of the seven states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas) that are expected to receive congressional seats after the reallocation, four have the right to work on the books
According to historical gains, the right to work is threatened with nationwide repeal with the PRO Act
The right to work seems to have a dynamic on paper. Elected civil servants in five states have resisted stiff trade union opposition for the past decade and voted for the right to work. Most of these representatives were later re-elected to the state parliament after they had cast their votes for the right to work. This suggests that the right to work vote was not so controversial after a vocal and well-funded opposition. Despite these seeming dynamics, there is a real possibility that President-elect Joe Biden will end up signing a law, the PRO Act, which repeals and anticipates all state laws on the right to work at the federal level.
Democratic Congressman Joe Cunningham (SC-1), who lost a re-election bid to Nancy Mace (R) in November, described the PRO Act as explaining why he couldn’t vote for the bill, despite almost all of his Democratic counterparts did this:
“This law would simply remove our state’s right to work, force workers into union contracts, and deprive workers of flexibility and independence.”
The PRO law was approved by the democratically run house in February 2020. President-elect Biden has approved the PRO Act and made it clear that if it comes to his desk, he will sign it.
“We should change federal law [so] that there is no right to work anywhere in the country, ”said Joe Biden on the campaign. Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris has expressed similar feelings. “Prohibiting the right to work laws … This has to happen,” said Kamala Harris.
If the Democrats take control of the U.S. Senate by winning both Georgia runoffs on January 5, the Democrats will be ready to pass the PRO Act in 2021, wiping out all 27 state right to work laws .
While not publicly promoting or talking about the PRO Act, both Jon Ossoff (D) and Raphael Warnock (D) have made private promises to union representatives to support the PRO Act and vote for it if it is elected. The Communications Workers of America, the union that touted Warnock & Ossoff’s support for the PRO Act, deleted its posts indicating Warnock & Ossoff’s Bill Act approval.
Residents of the 27 states with the right to work who wish to retain their freedom to choose whether or not to join a union will want to keep an eye on the Georgia Senate drains. Depending on how things go on Jan. 5, the historic expansion of the right to work that has taken place in the states over the past decade could be reversed with the stroke of a pen in Washington in the near future.