Why Virginia’s Open Shop Referendum Should Matter to U.S. Labor Movement

The most important election in Virginia this year has no candidates on the ballot.
Douglas Williams
On February 2nd, the Republican-dominated General Assembly passed the two-session threshold needed to put the open shop before the Commonwealth’s voters in November. You might be asking yourself, “Wait. I thought that Virginia was already an open-shop state?” Your inclinations would be correct: legislation barring union membership as a condition of employment was signed into law by Gov. William Tuck (a later adherent to Massive Resistance in response to Brown v. Board of Educationas a member of Congress) in 1947. As a result, Section 40.1-58 of the Code of Virginia reads:

It is hereby declared to be the public policy of Virginia that the right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or labor organization.

So why do this? The easy answer is that Virginia Republicans are fearful that, should the open shop meet a legal challenge in state court, Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring would not seek to defend it. The sponsor of the bill and defeated 2013 nominee for Attorney General, State Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), stated as much in the deliberations on the bill. In addition, should the Assembly find itself in pro-labor hands in the future, they could overturn the open shop with a simple majority vote. Never mind that the extreme amounts of gerrymandering in the Assembly (particularly in the House of Delegates) makes a unified Democratic state government unlikely for decades to come.

The vote this November will be the first popular referendum on the open shop since 54 percent of Oklahoma voters approved State Question 695 on September 25, 2001. In this, an opportunity presents itself to the labor movement in this country, and it is one that labor unions must take. Continue reading

Virginia Is for Compliers: Easier to Fight Misclassification, Subcontracting Violators

 by Chaz Bolte

Chaz Bolte

Chaz Bolte

Virginia’s penalties for misclassifying workers in order to avoid paying insurance costs got a boost this month thanks to a new law.  The Virginia Workers Compensation Act made it easier for the state to take action against violators, according to Virginia Workplace Law:

The civil penalty is now up to $250 per day for each day of noncompliance, subject to a maximum penalty of $50,000, plus collection costs.”  The VWCA requires every business owner with more than two employees (a part-time worker is counted as one employee) to have coverage for such worker.

Continue reading

Immigration bill update

Immigration Update.

English: March for America brings 200,000 peop...

English: March for America brings 200,000 people to Washington, DC, to call for comprehensive immigration reform. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Wednesday, July 10th, House Republicans will convene a special meeting to determine their position and strategy on immigration reform. Since Republicans make up a majority of the House of Representatives, this meeting will have a profound influence on the future of immigration reform. If Republicans think they can get away without passing a bill, they won’t do one.
 
Two weeks ago, the Senate passed immigration reform with a robustly bipartisan 68-32 vote, and now the big question is what the House will do. So far, House Committees have approved five bills, none of which create a path to citizenship, and all of which contain provisions that would negatively impact our community members.

Rep.  Bob  Goodlatte,  (  R. Virginia – 6th) Chair of the House Judiciary Committee has a bill HR 1773 which would re-establish the prior bracero program (guest workers) with many  of its worst features, tying the work visa to a single farm corporation, company housing, controlled wages, a external “savings” bank, and more.  Goodlatte has also announced that legislation coming out of his House panel will not include a pathway to citizenship

WHAT IS THE AGRICULTURAL GUESTWORKER ACT?
The “AG” Act, H.R. 1773, would replace the current H-2A agricultural guestworker program with a new H-2C program. It fails to provide any opportunity for farmworkers to pursue a roadmap to citizenship. Instead, they would be required to return to their home country and could only come back to the U.S. as guestworkers, another second-class status. Families would be separated as spouses and children are provided no status. H.R. 1773 would eliminate nearly all protections currently in the H-2A program, allowing for mass exploitation, wage cuts and unsafe working conditions. Continue reading

45,000 workers on strike at Verizon

Communications Workers of America

Image via Wikipedia

COMPANY REFUSES TO BARGAIN SERIOUSLY, VERIZON PROPOSALS WOULD TAKE WORKERS BACK DECADES
Washington, D.C. — More than 45,000 workers are on strike today at Verizon Communications. Bargaining continues. Since bargaining began on June 22, Verizon has refused to move from a long list of concession demands. As the contract expired, nearly 100 concessionary company proposals remained on the table.

As a result, CWA and IBEW have decided to take the unprecedented step of striking until Verizon stops its Wisconsin-style tactics and starts bargaining seriously.

Even at the 11th hour, as contracts were set to expire, Verizon continued to seek to strip away 50 years of collective bargaining gains for middle class workers and their families.

CWA and IBEW members are prepared to return to work when management demonstrates the willingness to begin bargaining seriously for a fair agreement. If not, CWA and IBEW members and allies will continue the fight. Continue reading