Historically, the commonwealth of Virginia and the Richmond Times-Dispatch have both placed great value upon the concepts of individual liberty and the right to self-determination. Virginia’s right-to-work law honors those ideals. The law itself is simple enough: No worker should be forced to join a union or pay union dues against his or her will as a condition of employment. The law also prohibits employers from denying a worker membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment.

The 73-year-old law has worked well for our state. It is difficult to underscore just how critical a role the statute has played in Virginia’s economic competitiveness. Last summer, the financial news cable network CNBC ranked Virginia as the No. 1 state for business. It was the first time in eight years the commonwealth placed in the top spot.

CNBC touted Virginia’s “world-class workforce, high-performing education system and business-friendly regulations.” The network made the announcement during an interview with a very proud and excited Gov. Ralph Northam. In later comments to the RTD, the Democrat noted: “It’s one thing to be No. 4 or No. 7,” referring to Virginia’s ranking in the poll the past two years, “but to be No. 1 in the country is something for us all to be proud of.”

For that reason, we hope the governor shares the grave concerns that we and hundreds of businesses across the state have regarding a proposal put forth by Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax: a “fair share” proposal that could force workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment.

As written, Senate Bill 426 would essentially gut the right-to-work law. Although the bill would still allow an employee the option to not join a union, employers could require the worker to pay as much as 60% of union dues. Meanwhile, Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, is sponsoring House Bill 153, which seeks to completely repeal Virginia’s statute. We urge lawmakers to reject both these measures, which would weaken Virginia’s strong standing as the best place to do business.

It is perplexing to us that as more states continue to adopt right-to-work laws, General Assembly members would even entertain such proposals. We understand the concerns that many legislators might have regarding employees’ rights. But there are many things that can be done to bolster workers’ protections without introducing such draconian measures as “fair share fees.”

More than half the states — 27 — have right-to-work laws. In the past five years, traditionally labor-friendly states such as Wisconsin and Kentucky have adopted them. Of the 21 states on CNBC’s Best States for Business list in 2019, 17 have right-to-work laws. Closer to home, neighboring right-to-work states such as North Carolina and West Virginia are wasting no time in letting concerned businesses know that their laws are intact and the welcome mat is out.

Virginians wouldn’t receive a “fair share” if the General Assembly and Northam repeal right-to-work laws. They would be handed a bad deal. Lawmakers need to vote no.

— Pamela Stallsmith and Robin Beres

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