For all Virginians

Race to the Left: Tom Perriello and Ralph Northam Break with Longstanding Bipartisan Support for Virginia’s Right to Work Laws

Perriello Pledges to Undo Laws; Northam Doesn’t Disagree and Celebrates Failure of Ballot Measure to Include it in Virginia Constitution

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin agree: Eliminating Virginia’s Right to Work Would be Advantage to Competing States

Laws Long Seen as Important in Attracting Major New Employers to Commonwealth and Helping Existing Ones Grow; Governor McAuliffe in 2013: “We are a great right-to-work state. We should never change that.”

Tom Perriello and Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam broke last week with Governor Terry McAuliffe and Virginia’s longstanding bipartisan support for the Commonwealth’s “Right to Work” laws, measures that guarantee Virginians are not compelled to join a union to obtain or keep a job, and that has long been regarded as crucial to maintaining Virginia’s reputation as a pro—business state where employers should seek to locate.

From last week’s debate:

Moderator: “This is a right to work state. In the past, even Governor Terry McAuliffe has said he would not try to change that law. Would you?

Tom Perriello:I would. I think it undermines the middle class and working class here in Virginia.”

Ralph Northam: “Well first of all I want to congratulate labor tonight for helping to defeat the constitutional amendment this past year…you all deserve a tremendous deal of credit for doing that. As far as a constitutional amendment, we don’t need that, and I stood up and I traveled around the Commonwealth of Virginia and helped to fight that as well. (Democratic Primary Debate, 5/9/17)

Tom Perriello wants to completely undo Virginia’s laws.

Tom Perriello: “Workers do better when they have strong unions, and the decline in union membership is a major reason why wages have effectively flat-lined since the 1970s. That’s why I oppose so-called “right to work” laws that kneecap unions from helping workers bargain for higher wages.” (

Ralph Northam doesn’t disagree and happily celebrates the defeat of a Right to Work constitutional amendment at the polls and has inferred his willingness to support a repeal given a Democratic majority.

Ralph Northam: “I think also we have to be realistic in Virginia, what we can get done with our current legislature. I think rather than pick fights that we perhaps can’t win right now, we need to talk about how can we help labor, how can we help with PLA’s, which are project labor agreements. Those are very important to labor and unions right now.” (Democratic Primary Debate, 5/9/17)

How the times have changed:

In 2013, while running for governor, Terry McAuliffe noted: “We are a great right-to-work state,” he said. “We should never change that. It helps us do what we need to do to grow our businesses here in Virginia.” (PolitiFact, 6/21/2013)

In 2009, during his gubernatorial campaign, Creigh Deeds strongly backed the law: “Democrat Creigh Deeds got support from corporate captains and venture capitalists Thursday in his run for governor as he pledged to honor Virginia’s right-to-work legacy if elected.” (Washington Times, 7/3/2009)

In 2005, so did then Lieutenant Governor, now former governor and current United States Senator, Tim Kaine: “But, as The Washington Post noted when the former Virginia governor was preparing his 2012 US Senate bid, “Kaine has supported Virginia’s right-to-work law since he ran for governor in 2005, and his campaign says that position has not changed.” (The Nation, 7/22/2016)

As other states are seeking to become more economically competitive by passing their own Right to Work laws – including West Virginia and Kentucky on our border, as well as Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan – Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello want to take Virginia in the opposite direction, breaking with the long held position of previous Democratic governors and gubernatorial candidates in the state.

That’s bad for our economy and it’s bad for Virginia. Right to Work has been a key component of Virginia’s ability to attract new business to the state and help existing businesses grow.

Last week, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released its updated gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the fourth quarter of 2016. Virginia saw 1.5 percent growth and was ranked 26th in the nation. Once again Virginia is stuck in the middle of the pack, when it should be leading the way.

“Virginia’s economy is stuck. We must do everything we can to restore the Commonwealth’s rightful place as one of the best states in the country for business,” said Gillespie. “While Lt. Gov. Northam and Congressman Perriello make political calculations to win the Democratic primary, I’ll continue to put forward bold policies that will grow our economy. It’s time to make Virginia the best state in the nation again in which to live and to work. Some issues should unite us: support for Virginia’s Right to Work laws is one of them. Both the Democrats running for governor are out of step with Virginia’s job creators.”

“We noticed a difference when Kentucky, our northern neighbor, became a Right to Work state,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. “If Virginia did flip, I can promise you that it would be to Tennessee’s benefit in attracting not only individuals, but in attracting corporations, it would be a huge advantage to us.”

“If Virginia were shortsighted enough to make the decision that your competitors are calling for, it would absolutely be, no question about it, to the advantage of not only surrounding states but states all over the country,” said Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. “When a company is looking to move from somewhere else in the world to putting a North American headquarters in, they look at all the states. We all do compete with each other. To the advantage of the states that are right to work, is the fact that some are not. And there are certainly some companies, in fact, last time a study was done, a full-third of CFO’s and CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, for example, said straight up they will not go to, relocate in, or expand in a state that is not right to work.”

“Virginia’s right-to-work laws have been in place for 70 years and contributed mightily to our pro-business climate,” said Speaker-designee M. Kirk Cox. “I am disappointed that Lt. Governor Northam and Congressman Perriello would even question Virginia’s commitment to right-to-work.”

“Virginia dismantling its Right to Work laws would be a welcome gift to North Carolina’s economy,” said North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger. “In a competitive economic region, North Carolina becoming the northernmost Right to Work state on the East Coast would be invaluable in attracting new, thriving business to our state.”

“Since Kentucky passed right to work earlier this year our economy has seen unprecedented growth with over 5 billion dollars total in economic development,” said Kentucky House Majority Leader Jonathan Shell. “To remove right to work would be detrimental to Virginia and would be devastating to their economy. Though as a competitive state we would look forward to that backwards step by Virginia.”

“It’s critical that Virginia remain a right to work state,” said Jim Cheng, former Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade. “Threats made by Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello to eliminate Right to Work laws would be harmful to our economy and undermine our ability to attract business into the state. Ed Gillespie has already put forward meaningful policy proposals to get Virginia’s economy growing again – a stark contrast.”

Glenn Spencer Vice President, Workforce Freedom Initiative at the U.S. Chamber Commerce commented, “The U.S. Chamber has always been supportive of right to work laws because we think they’re conducive to economic growth and to job creation. The majority of state governments know this, which is why over the past five years, we’ve seen 6 states join the ranks of those that have right to work laws, but the benefits of the right to work laws aren’t just a matter of our opinion. We’ve commissioned a number of studies over the years that have shown the benefits of right to work laws. The bottom line is that right to work is working for Virginia, and the state would be swimming against the tide of history if it were to actually repeal that law.”

Executive Director of Virginia Chamber PAC Ryan Dunn said, “This is one of the bad ideas that we’ve heard come through the political process of doing away with Virginia’s right to work and going in the opposite direction that you see most of the country going in. I haven’t read in the newspapers any state recently that’s gone from a right to work state to a forced union state. That’s not the trend line that’s happening across this country.”