Va. lawmakers kill right-to-work repeal, ‘fair share’ proposal

Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Richmond. (Photo by Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Proposals to repeal or scale back Virginia’s right-to-work law, which bans compulsory union membership, are dead for the year.

In the House, leaders of the appropriations committee avoided a vote Friday by simply not scheduling the bill for a hearing.

Virginia Explained: The growing debate (and divide) on right to work

Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, had proposed a full-scale repeal of the law, legislation unanimously endorsed by Democrats on the Labor and Commerce Committee. But the bill was sent to appropriations to weigh the potential impact on the state’s budget, which the Virginia Economic Development Partnership estimated at between $9 and $25 million a year as a result of projects lost to other states.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, proposed a compromise measure dubbed “fair share,” in which union membership wouldn’t be required in unionized workplaces, but non-members would still have to pay a portion of dues (50 percent in most cases) to cover the union’s cost of negotiating contracts with management.

“It doesn’t do away with the right to work law,” Saslaw told members of the Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee. “It puts a dent in it.”

Saslaw’s colleagues did not appear eager to address the law this year, voting 12-3 to pass the bill by for the year but to establish a special subcommittee to study the issue.

The vote followed a plea from Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, to see how other major labor reforms, including a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15, impact the state’s business climate before going further.

“I think it would be good for the General Assembly to pause and take a deep breath for the balance of the year,” Norment said.