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Virginia’s Right-To-Work Law Survives Another Year

Striking coal miners picket in front of Crestar Bank in downtown Richmond in 1989.
Striking coal miners picket in front of Crestar Bank in downtown Richmond in 1989. (RTD Collection/The Valentine)

Virginia's right-to-work law is sticking around for at least another year.

Two Democratic bills to repeal or change the law failed to make it out of committee.

A Senate committee voted on Sunday to study the issue rather than change the law now, with all but three Democrats joining Republicans on the vote.

In the House, a bill mandating a full repeal of the law stalled in committee, where it wasn’t taken up in time to meet procedural deadlines.

Virginia’s right-to-work prohibits unions from charging dues to non-members. Critics say it’s misnamed and allows freeloaders to benefit from collective bargaining without paying for the benefits they reap.

Virginia has one of the lowest rates of union membership in the country.

Sen. Mark Obenshain (R - Rockingham) was among those to vote down a so-called “fair share” bill in the Senate, which he called a “colossally awful idea.” The bill would have allowed unions to charge limited dues.

“I do not know why we want to run around and run away from everything we have done to make Virginia the number one state in America to do business in,” Obenshain said, referring to a CNBC ranking last year.

Business groups galvanized against efforts to change the law, with a slew of op-eds, editorials, and media outreach.

Virginians for Employee Free Choice, a coalition of business interests and trade groups, said in a statement that “both proposals would have hurt economic development in Virginia and put us at a competitive disadvantage.”

Del. Lee Carter (D-Manasas) said his bill pushing a full repeal of the law would be back again next year.

“Letting it die quietly won't get rid of the public pressure for this bill,” Carter said. “It'll be back.”