ACDC News

Resolution on Right to Work Constitutional Amendment

(Unanimously approved by the Augusta County Democratic Committee April 18, 2016)


Whereas, Article I of the Virginia Constitution is a Bill of Rights that traces back to Thomas Jefferson and George Mason and predates the Federal Bill of Rights and is an elegant document that addresses important and fundamental rights, and

Whereas, the Virginia Bill of Rights is, by design, a very difficult document to amend because it describes limitations on government so as to protect individual rights and liberties, even if those protected are out-of-favor with the majority, and

Whereas, Republicans in the General Assembly, over the objection of Democratic delegates and senators, have proposed to add a new Section 11-A to the Bill of Rights entitled “Right to Work” which would prohibit employers and unions from entering into a collective bargaining agreement that requires all employees to join the union as a condition of employment, and

Whereas, this proposal has been adopted by the Virginia General Assembly in both the 2015 and 2016 sessions and will be on the November 2016 ballot as a ratification referendum, and

Whereas, this addition does not belong in the Virginia Bill of Rights because: it would inappropriately elevate a labor law issue to the status of a fundamental constitutional right; it would infringe upon the freedom of employers and employees to voluntarily structure their labor relations; and it would be needlessly redundant, since Virginia has had a law on the books prohibiting “closed shops” for more than 70 years and

Whereas, any new Constitutional provision will engender costly rounds of litigation to test and to interpret its scope and implementation and such litigation risk would make Virginia unattractive to employers.

Therefore, be it resolved by the Augusta County Democratic Committee on April 18, 2016 that the Committee:

  1. Condemns the proposed amendment to the Virginia Bill of Rights as not germane to the purposes and intents of the original document.

  2. Deplores this thinly veiled political effort that will waste taxpayers’ money on conducting a referendum and will expose Virginia to subsequent litigation on an issue that is not under challenge.

  3. Urges the voters of Augusta County to vote “NO” on this referendum question.



Background information

Rep. Richard Bell introduced the amendment into the first session of the Virginia Legislature as House Joint Resolution 490 on July 22, 2014.

The measure was passed by the Virginia House of Delegates on February 9, 2015, with 64 delegates voting in favor and 29 voting against. It was passed by the Virginia Senate on February 20, 2015, with 21 senators in favor and 19 against.

Bell introduced the amendment into House in the following session of the Legislature as House Bill 4. Sen. Mark Obenshain introduced the amendment into the Senate as Senate Bill 446.

HB 4 was passed by the House on February 3, 2016, with 63 delegates voting in favor and 34 voting against. It was referred to a Senate committee on February 4, 2016.

SB 446 was passed in the Senate on February 2, 2016, with 21 senators voting in favor and 19 against. It was referred to a House committee on February 5, 2016.  HB 4 was passed by the Senate on February 15, 2016, with 21 senators voting in favor and 19 against. Having passed both chambers in two consecutive sessions, the amendment is likely to appear on the November 2016 ballot, although registrars have asked for the measure to be delayed for the 2017 ballot over concerns that the measures will slow down proceedings at the polls in a presidential election year.

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