House Majority Rejects Attempt to Force ‘Right to Work’ Vote

By Brian Carlton

February 4, 2021

For the third straight year, Carter’s bill dies in committee.

RICHMOND-For the third straight year, Del. Lee Carter (D-Manassas) filed a bill to repeal Virginia’s ‘Right to Work’ law. And for the third time, it sat in committee without a vote. Carter tried to change that Wednesday, but House leaders shot down his request. 

Carter made a unique request, asking for his bill HB1755 to be discharged from the Labor and Commerce Committee where it currently sits. Filed back in December, the bill never made it on the committee’s docket to be discussed in more than a month. The committee doesn’t plan to meet again before Crossover Day, effectively killing the proposal for this session. To avoid that, Carter wanted to pull the bill out of committee and put it to the full House. That didn’t sit well with some of his colleagues. 

“We have a leadership which is elected by the members of the majority caucus,” said Del. Marcus Simon (D-Fairfax). “We have committee chairs and we have a process by which we do business here. And there’s a way to get things done and there’s a way to make sure that bills get heard. This is not the way we do business in this General Assembly.” 

Bills need to go through committee, get recommended and then go to the full House, Simon said. He appreciated Carter’s passion, but added this wasn’t the right way to achieve his goal. As a result, Simon made a motion to ‘pass by’ or table Carter’s request.

RELATED: Does Virginia Need a Right-to-Work Law?

A Slight Reversal

Nobody could recall the last time a motion like Carter’s had been made. Dogwood reached out to several law professors and none of them had seen this before. Carter argued, however, that he was going off previous history. Virginia House Democrats tried something similar in 2011. At that time, the Republican-controlled Virginia House refused to put the Equal Rights Amendment on the docket for the Committee for Privileges and Elections. Democrats put forth a motion to change the rules, to try and move the ERA forward regardless. It failed. 

“And we, as Democrats in this chamber, treated the motion to pass by the rules change as equivalent to a motion to kill the substance of the resolution,” Carter said. He saw Wednesday’s motion as just following the earlier precedent.  

An overwhelming majority of the House agreed with Simon, however. They tabled Carter’s request by a 83-13 vote. Interestingly, some members labeled as co-patrons of Carter’s bill voted against bringing it to a vote. They included Simon, Del. Kenneth Plum, Del. Patrick Hope, Del. Mark Keam, Del. Kaye Kory and Del. Paul Krizek. 

Simon said he didn’t oppose the bill. Instead, the call to table was just about following the regular process. 

The remaining 10 co-patrons of Carter’s bill voted against the motion to table on Wednesday. They included Del. Lashrecse Aird, Del. Joshua Cole, Del. Elizabeth Guzman, Del. Dan Helmer, Del. Sally Hudson, Del. Mark Levine, Del. Alfonzo Lopez, Del. Sam Rasoul, Del. Ibraheem Samirah and Del. Kathy Tran. Del. Danica Roem and Del. Jeion Ward also opposed tabling Carter’s motion. 

Speaking before the vote, Carter said he wasn’t surprised at the opposition to moving his bill forward. 

“This is something that we hear quite often whenever the majority party wishes to avoid a vote on an issue,” Carter said.

What is ‘Right to Work’?

Virginia’s ‘Right to Work’ law predates video games, radial tires and the National Football League. Approved in 1947, it made the Commonwealth one of 26 states to try and reduce the power of unions. The law basically says nobody can be forced to join a union or pay dues to one in order to get a job. 

Supporters of the law say it simply allows workers to have options. They can still join a union if they want, but nobody’s forcing them to. Carter and others who want the law repealed see a different side. They argue that non-union workers still benefit from higher salaries and benefits, negotiated by unions. The non-union workers just don’t help to pay the bill for that negotiation, they say.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

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