State Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
With his proposal to repeal Virginia’s right-to-work law bottled up in committee for the third year in a row, Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, tried unsuccessfully to force his Democratic colleagues to bring it to a floor vote Wednesday.
Carter, a self-described socialist running an anti-corporate, pro-worker campaign for governor, asked the Democratic-led House to allow his bill to be released from the House Labor and Commerce Committee and brought to the floor for a vote, initiating a direct confrontation with party leaders who seem content to allow the bill to die another silent death.
“I’ve introduced this bill for the last three years running and its fate in both of the previous years has been to die at crossover without a recorded vote,” Carter said.
Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, offered a competing motion to block Carter’s attempt, calling it a highly unusual departure from the House’s normal procedures and leadership structure.
“We have a process by which we do business here,” said Simon, who handles rules issues for Democratic leadership as the caucus’s parliamentarian.
Simon’s motion to quash Carter’s attempt passed 83-13, with a dozen other progressive Democrats joining Carter to try to bring the bill to the floor.
Right-to-work repeal has become a key dividing line for Virginia Democrats, with more centrist Democrats dismissing it as an ill-advised effort that could hurt the state’s business climate and progressives pushing it as a major step to help workers and strengthen labor unions.
The right-to-work law, which dates back to 1947 in Virginia, prevents unions from forcing workers to pay union dues as a condition of their employment, which effectively weakens organized labor.
Carter is running as a staunch progressive in Democratic gubernatorial field that also includes former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond and former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy.
Simon, a co-sponsor of the legislation to repeal right-to-work, said that even if Carter got his bill onto the House floor it would not pass. He also called his motion to reject the maneuver a “purely procedural vote.”
Carter pointed out that, when Republicans were in the majority, Democrats tried something similar to force a vote on the Equal Rights Amendment, an effort to enshrine gender equality in the U.S. Constitution.
“This is something that we hear quite often whenever the majority party… wishes to avoid the vote on an issue,” Carter said.
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