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Virginia Voters to Decide on Right-to-Work Constitutional Amendment

Virginia voters will have the opportunity this fall to strengthen the state’s right-to-work laws by adding a constitutional amendment prohibiting mandatory union membership as a condition of employment in the Commonwealth. The amendment would buttress the state’s current right-to-work statute.

On February 24, 2016, Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) approved legislation placing a referendum before voters on the November 8, 2016, ballot asking if the Virginia constitution should be amended to prohibit a contract between an employer and a union or labor organization “whereby (i) nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, (ii) membership in the union or organization is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or (iii) the union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any such enterprise.” If there is a majority vote in favor of the referendum, the constitutional amendment will take effect on January 1, 2017.

Supporters of the constitutional amendment, who view the right to work as a fundamental right, want to make it more difficult for future lawmakers to undo the state statute, which has been in place for 70 years. In Virginia, a state law can be changed by a majority vote of both houses of the legislature and the signature of the governor (or a 2/3’s vote of both houses overriding a gubernatorial veto). Further, a constitutional amendment requires a majority vote of both houses of the legislature in two successive sessions. Opponents view the amendment as unnecessary and a waste of legislative time.

State right-to-work laws are authorized by the National Labor Relations Act. On July 1, 2016, West Virginia will become the 26th right-to-work state in the country (see our post, West Virginia Becomes 26th Right-to-Work State).

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020National Law Review, Volume VI, Number 68

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About this Author

Patrick Egan, Labor Law Attorney, Jackson Lewis, Boston Law Firm
Patrick L. Egan

Patrick L. Egan is a Principal in the Boston, Massachusetts, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Mr. Egan works in traditional labor law.

He has assisted employers in all industries in all phases of union organizing campaigns. Mr. Egan has represented employers in card-signing efforts and representation and decertification campaigns. He has conducted union awareness and positive employee relations training for hundreds of companies and employer groups. He has also assisted dozens of employers to preempt, prepare for and defend against union corporate campaigning....

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Philip B. Rosen Jackson Lewis  Preventive Practices Lawyer & Collective Bargaining Attorney
Principal

Philip B. Rosen is a Principal in the New York City, New York, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is a member of the firm's Board of Directors and co-leads the firm's Labor and Preventive Practices Group. He joined the firm in 1979 and served as Managing Partner of the New York City office from 1989 to 2009.

Mr. Rosen lectures extensively, conducts management training, and advises clients with respect to legislative and regulatory initiatives, corporate strategies, business ethics, social media, reorganizations and reductions-in-force, purchase/sale transactions, sexual harassment and other workplace conduct rules, compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, wrongful discharge and other workplace litigation, corporate campaigns and union organizing matters, collective bargaining, arbitration and National Labor Relations Board proceedings. He has been quoted by the press on many labor matters, including the National Labor Relations Board’s recent initiatives on protected concerted activity and the proposed Notice Posting requirements.

Mr. Rosen has extensive experience advising clients developing integrated corporate-wide labor relations strategies - whether the organization is union-free, partially unionized or entirely unionized. He has led teams conducting multi-facility labor-related legal assessments where clients are seeking to develop creative, strategic legal approaches which anticipate major issues and achieve a company’s labor relations goals. Mr. Rosen also has advised clients being confronted with corporate campaigns and requests for neutrality agreements. He has represented organizations seeking to maximize management rights through their development of pro-active employee relations approaches to remain union-free. He also has advised unionized organizations on lawful negotiating strategies – in situations ranging from “hard bargaining” to recapture management rights to more “cooperative” negotiations – in all cases, providing legal advice designed to assist clients in achieving their primary goals.

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