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Trey Kovacs: Virginians should preserve the right to work

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No one should be forced to financially support an organization they disagree with under threat of penalty. Virginians have the chance to stand up for this common-sense sentiment on Election Day.

Virginia legislators want to enshrine the right-to-work guarantee in the state’s constitution via Question 1 on Tuesday's ballot. That would prevent any retreat by future lawmakers on this critical freedom and right. The Old Dominion has given workers the right to abstain from union payments for about 70 years. Inserting right to work into the constitution would go a long way toward ensuring Virginian workers cannot be forced to pay tribute to unions for the next 70 years.

Consider that in states without a right-to-work law, workers can be compelled to pay fees to a union that they may not support or want to represent them in the workplace. In states that allow forced union dues, workers who refrain from paying union fees risk penalties such as hefty fines or termination. Just recently, the Communication Workers of America union fined several workers for working during the Verizon strike, even though the workers resigned their union membership prior to going back to work.

Consider also that a right-to-work law does not diminish workers’ right to join a union, diminish collective bargaining, or reduce wages, despite what labor unions and other opponents of worker choice tell the public. Right to work only gives workers the right to not pay unions dues. It does not stop anyone from joining or forming a union.

Not only that, in states with right-to-work laws, the total number of jobs significantly outpaces that in non-right-to work states. Over a 35-year period, 1977-2012, right-to-work states' employment grew by 105.3 percent, while forced unionism states lagged behind, with employment growth of only 50 percent.

Not only is employment growing in right-to-work states, income is, too. As Vincent Vernuccio of Michigan’s Mackinac Center recently noted, “[F]rom 2000 to 2015, personal income in right-to-work states increased 91 percent compared to 72 percent in non-right-to-work states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.”

In addition, research from the National Institute for Labor Relations Research found “that the average cost of living-adjusted disposable income per capita in Right to Work states last year was $41,112, $2,900 higher than the forced-unionism state average.”

In addition to economic benefits, Americans prefer right-to-work status — and so do union members. In 2014, a Gallup poll asked whether individuals would vote for right-to-work legislation. A majority of 71 percent said they would vote for right to work, with only 22 percent saying they would not. And in 2015, National Employee Freedom Week, a nationwide coalition, released the results of a scientific survey of union members. One question asked, "[S]hould employees have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union?" Slightly over 75 percent of surveyed union members answered "Yes" to the question.

Ultimately, right to work is not about popularity or economic benefits, which the law certainly delivers. It is about individual freedom. All hard-working men and women should be able to determine how to spend their earnings, not forced to pay a union they may not want.

By voting “Yes” on Question 1, Virginians will ensure that worker freedom is preserved for years and generations to come.

Originally posted to The Virginian-Pilot