There is congressional legislation that could have a serious, negative impact on a number of major industries that support Virginia’s vibrant economy, including farming and agriculture, particularly important to us in the Valley. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), prioritizes growing union power and influence rather than the rights of workers to choose or not chose to organize. Fundamentally, this act threatens the viability of Virginia businesses, including local agricultural producers.
The PRO Act would overturn decades of established labor law. It would start by rescinding Virginia’s Right to Work laws, which currently prevent workers from being forced into paying union dues if they did not vote for unionization or no longer support a union’s efforts. Moving forward with the PRO Act can negatively impact Virginia economy and our competitiveness.
Peer reviewed studies have shown that states with worker choice have:
- Employers more likely to invest or build new facilities
- One-fifth to one-third more manufacturing jobs than states with forced fees
- Lower unemployment rates, 1.2 percentage points lower than forced fee states,
- Thousands of workers would be forced to pay on average $550 per year for union fees, reducing their wages for no net gain.
Virginia’s Right to Work laws have been critical in protecting workers and creating a positive environment for local businesses and have in no way impeded the ability of workers to unionize or maintain union membership. Indeed, within the Shenandoah Valley, a number of manufacturers have decade’s old union representation. Our designation as a Right to Work state is something that former Governor McAuliffe once said should “never change.” On behalf of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce and Shenandoah Valley Partnership — as well as our shared mission of fostering economic growth throughout our region — we could not agree more.
Additionally, by redefining something known as the joint employer standard — which is essentially the criteria used to determine when two or more businesses share employer responsibilities for the same worker — the PRO Act would disrupt a range of business contracts and relationships, undermining existing business models that are critical to the agriculture industry.
As just one example, changing the joint employer standard in the way the PRO Act would do could threaten contracts between local Virginia cooperative operations (co-ops) and major U.S. and international agricultural brands and companies by making it more complicated for businesses to work together on a contract basis. What happens to those contracts and employees if that happens? The unintended consequences are enormous.
That is why Senator Mark Warner should oppose this bill. His decision to not add his name on as a cosponsor to-date is greatly appreciated by the local business and farming communities, but vocally opposing it will send a clear signal that he will protect Virginia’s Right to Work laws and balance the needs of our workers with our ability to grow existing businesses, attract new businesses and continue our economic prosperity.
Christopher Quinn is the president and CEO of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce and Jay A Langston, Ph.D. is the executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Partnership.