Constitutional Amendments on Your Ballot

November 7, 2016

Ballot Question One – Right to Work:

“Should Article I of the Constitution of Virginia be amended to prohibit any agreement or combination between an employer and a labor union or labor organization whereby (i) nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, (ii) membership to the union or organization is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or (iii) the union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any such enterprise?”

This year voters will have an opportunity to place our right to work law in the Virginia Constitution. I fully support this measure.

While Virginia has been a right to work state for decades through statute, ballot question one will add an additional layer of protection to ensure this measure cannot be repealed at the whims of an individual governor or legislature. This law ensures that Virginians are not forced to join a labor union as a condition of employment or when seeking new employment. This guarantees that workers have the freedom to choose where they work based on their talents and abilities, rather than their willingness to join a union and pony up money for dues, even if they may not support the efforts and positions of the union.

Beyond freedom for workers, our right to work status is one of the main factors that makes us attractive to businesses that are growing and relocating. 26 states have right to work laws, with Michigan and Wisconsin becoming two of the most recent additions. The numbers show right to work states are creating more jobs than forced-unionization states. Over the past decade, private sector employment in right to work states grew by 15.9% compared to 9.6% in forced-unionization states. Over this same time period, income growth has been nearly 6% higher in right to work states. The medium unemployment rate in right to work states is 4.6%, compared to 5% in forced-unionization states. Businesses, and especially large manufactures, strongly prefer to operate in right to work states, with one estimation conveying that almost 40% of manufacturers will only operate in right to work states.

Recent efforts by the National Labor Relations Board make the need to affirm our right to work status all the more critical. Federal provisions that went into effect last year significantly shorten the amount of time between when a labor union petitions to unionize a business and when the vote is held to form the union. This gives the union the ability to campaign ahead of the petition filing for support, leaving the employer little time to respond. The employer also has legally mandated responsibilities in this process that significantly increased with the new rule, despite the shorter time table. This simply means the legal costs for the business increased, all while tilting the process in the union’s favor, opening the door for coercion and confusion. This is yet another example of federal bureaucrats in the executive branch overreaching to enact policies that make it more difficult for American businesses to operate.

At a time when our economy and Commonwealth is still struggling to fully recover from the Great Recession, we need to retain every tool in our tool belt to keep the jobs we have and recruit new private industry that will foster new job growth. It would be unwise to entertain removing that tool, and thus taking off the table a large portion of employers that will not hire in a forced-unionization state. While those opposed to this amendment may claim that it is unnecessary because it is already current law, make no mistake, their real motivation is to repeal right to work if ever given the opportunity. This is evident in the fact that in the same breath they claim placing right to work in the constitution is unnecessary, they espouse their position opposing the underlying law. They know that once approved by the voters and included in our state constitution, their efforts will be significantly more difficult.

Passing this amendment will send a clear message to entrepreneurs and job creators that Virginia is open for business. It will make Virginia a stronger state by guaranteeing that no employee can be fired just because he or she refuses to join a labor union. By enshrining it in our constitution, we can permanently protect our right to work status.

I encourage you to vote “Yes” on ballot question one.

Ballot Question Two – Property tax exemptions for spouses of first responders:

“Shall the Constitution of Virginia be amended to allow the General Assembly to provide an option to the localities to exempt from taxation the real property of the surviving spouse of any law-enforcement officer, firefighter, search and rescue personnel, or emergency medical services personnel who was killed in the line of duty, where the surviving spouse occupies the real property as his or her principal place of residence and has not remarried?”

I also support the second constitutional amendment that will give localities the option to provide a property tax exemption to the surviving spouse of a law enforcement, firefighter, or emergency service member killed in the line of duty.

Virginians previously approved a similar provision to the surviving spouses of military members killed in action. It seems reasonable and appropriate to allow for that same courtesy to the surviving spouses of law enforcement and first responders. Just like so many service members, many have given the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe. While it is optional for localities to participate, this amendment is a small recognition for the efforts of our first responders who put their lives on the line each and every day.

I encourage you to vote “Yes” on ballot question two.