By Heywood Fralin
Fralin is Chairman of Medical Facilities of America.
The Virginia economy is growing. Unemployment is at its lowest level in years. The state’s investment in GO Virginia is bringing local governments together and providing renewed enthusiasm for economic development in every region of the Commonwealth. The research dollars awarded to our universities are increasing, and incubators and accelerators launched around the state are helping startup companies initiated by this research to succeed.
With all this success, and the belief by almost everyone in the business community that we are headed in the right direction, why would some in the political world be talking about doing away with Virginia’s decades-old right-to-work law?
One key factor in Virginia’s success is the fact this law exists.
[Editor’s note: In a nutshell, the right-to work law says employees in unionized workplaces are not required to join the union, and the union is banned from negotiating contracts which require all members who benefit from the union contract to contribute to the costs of union representation.]
Repeal would immediately cause a downturn in our economy, end our rating as the “Best State for Business,” and cause good jobs to leave the Commonwealth.
Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced his commitment to keeping Virginia a right-to-work state, stating during his annual remarks to the Governor’s Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates, “I can’t foresee Virginia taking actions that would include repeal of the right-to-work law.”
He went even further recently at the Virginia Chamber Foundation’s Economic Summit, stating “I don’t want to do anything that would threaten our AAA bond rating or our status as the number one state for business…such as repealing [Virginia’s] Right-to-Work law.”
Statements like these are very encouraging and go a long way in reassuring Virginia’s business community.
I am confident that all our legislators want what’s best for Virginia and Virginians, but it’s important for all to understand the repeal of the right-to-work laws would negatively affect everyone.
Virginia has worked hard to reclaim its spot as CNBC’s “Best State for Business” after slipping in the rankings less than a decade ago. We earned this title, according to CNBC, primarily for three reasons: our world-class workforce, high-performing education system, and business-friendly environment and regulations.
Virginia’s decades-old right-to-work policy has fostered a business-friendly climate that is inclusive of unions while allowing employees the choice as to whether or not they want to join a union.
Some have argued that implementing a “Fair Share” provision, where even employees who choose not to join a union will be required to pay a union to negotiate contracts, would be good for Virginia. This is a misguided belief.
The impact of such a law would be equally negative as totally repealing the right-to-work law. It would be a sign to employers that Virginia is no longer open for business.
There is no doubt that any change to our right-to-work law will increase the cost of doing business for employers. In fact, an analysis by Mangum Economics for the Virginia Chamber of Commerce finds that a repeal could cost the Virginia economy more than $1.3 billion annually.
Virginia has a great story to tell because of its strong workforce. That’s because we have a top K-12 and higher education system preparing students for 21st century jobs and the fourth-highest college graduation rate in the country. This is a record we’re proud of and have worked hard to build.
Late in 2018, Virginia attracted Amazon HQ2, bringing with it more than 25,000 high-paying jobs and new high-tech and higher education opportunities to our state. The right-to-work law in Virginia helped this recruitment.
A change to our right-to-work law will increase the cost of doing business, will turn employers to other states, and will hurt our workforce.
With so much good happening in Virginia’s economy, we all need to recognize the importance of preserving Virginia’s right-to-work law, which has served us well for many, many years. Let’s continue to build on the positive course Virginia has taken that’s provided good paying jobs for people of this great state.