For being so controversial, right to work laws are pretty popular. A majority of states, 27, have them and even Democrats will give them the thumbs up when asked. That’s the takeaway from a new poll commission by the Virginia-based nonprofit Thomas Jefferson Institute. The poll was conducted by Mason-Dixon.
A little over two-thirds of Virginia Democrats, 69 percent, agreed with the statement that public sector workers should “have the right to leave the union at any time and stop paying union dues.” That is a fair summary of a right to work law. Only 16 percent agreed that the workers should be required to pay union dues regardless of their personal preference. Another 15 percent were unsure. Support was 91 percent among Republicans and 90 percent among self-described independents.
Technically, what a right to work law does is prohibit management from signing contracts requiring all workers join a union or otherwise financially support it. In short, the laws are a restraint on management. Unions insist on these provisions, which they dub “security clauses.” Nothing about the laws prevents workers from supporting unions if they want to. It just makes it voluntary. Explaining this in plain English can apparently win over even Democratic voters.
Unions hate right to work laws because they can a take major financial hit if the workers don’t think they get any benefit from being a member. Unions call the laws, “right to work for less” and argue that they result in weak unions that cannot benefit workers. Most congressional Democrats and President Biden agree and have backed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which would eliminate all of these laws. Democratic voters, at least the ones in Virginia, aren’t on board.
The Thomas Jefferson Institute poll doesn’t use the phrase “right to work,” which may explain why the Democratic support was so strong. The term itself is negative for many on the left, but that’s the point. If you talk about the actual policy, people view it differently.