Virginia unionists concentrate on beating right-to-work

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (PAI) – Amid reports that Virginia may soon be taken off the national “swing state” list in the presidential race and ceded to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, Virginia unionists have decided to concentrate this fall on defeating a right to work (RTW) state constitutional amendment referendum.

The Old Dominion is already an RTW state – which unionists call “right to work for less” – but only by statute. Right-wingers in the GOP-run legislature want to enshrine RTW in the state’s constitution. There are now 26 RTW states nationwide. RTW is a favorite right-wing and big business cause, letting workers use union services without having to pay for them.

To achieve success in Virginia, the GOP must pass RTW in two separate legislatures, with a referendum approval in between. The state AFL-CIO will campaign for “No On 1!” – 1 is the ballot number of RTW this fall – federation President Doris Crouse-Mays said.

“Virginia’s Constitution is a sacred document and does not need to be changed,” a Virginia AFL-CIO fact sheet on the RTW referendum says. “This amendment is simply the latest move in the partisan political trend to attack working families.

“Our Constitution was designed to protect the rights of the citizens of the Commonwealth. This amendment, however, is an attempt to enshrine an existing law designed to infringe upon the rights of workers and stifle our collective voices.

“Our state legislators should focus on policies that strengthen our communities, fund our schools, fix our crumbling infrastructure, raise wages, and create good jobs for hard working Virginians. This amendment is a distraction from the real issues and an enormous waste of legislators’ time and taxpayers’ money.

“The ballot measure alone is expected to cost more than $131,000 of taxpayer funds – funds that, among other things, could have bought books for school children or filled the potholes in our roads. Virginia’s working families deserve better from our elected representatives.”

In national races, the latest poll, published by the Washington Post on August 16, gives Clinton a 52 percent-38 percent lead over Republican nominee Donald Trump. That’s an increase from two weeks before, where she led 51 percent-43 percent. The new poll came after press reports that Virginia may exit the swing state list, being ceded to Clinton.

State AFL-CIO delegates, meeting in Williamsburg, didn’t neglect national politics entirely. They voted “no position” on races involving Northern Virginia Democratic Reps. Gerry Connolly and Don Beyer, due to their support of “fast-track” presidential trade authority and the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership “free trade” pact.

That left just Bobby Scott, top Democrat on the politically polarized House Education and the Workforce Committee – the panel that deals with labor law and workers’ rights, among other issues – as the sole incumbent the delegates backed this fall. In a “purple” swing state, gerrymanders put Republicans in eight of Virginia’s 11 U.S. House seats.

Photo caption: Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine addresses a meeting of trade unionists in Virginia. | Virginia AFL-CIO


CONTRIBUTOR

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Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.

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