COVID-19 Heightens Need for Gov. Northam to Veto Government Union Boss Monopoly Bargaining, Project Labor Agreement Bills

Virginia Governor Northam about worsen Virginia’s state of emergency

Big Labor Giveaways Pending with Governor Would Undermine Flexibility of Coronavirus Response, Drive Up Costs in Face of Revenue Losses Caused By Crisis

Springfield, VA (March 27, 2020) – National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix today called on Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to veto legislation currently on his desk, which could grant union officials union monopoly bargaining power over government employees, and lift Virginia’s prohibition against requiring so-called union-only “Project Labor Agreements” (PLAs) for taxpayer-funded construction projects.

As Mix observed: “While these proposals would be wrong for Virginia taxpayers and workers anytime, they are especially harmful now since they would undermine state and local efforts to mitigate the damage being wrought by the COVID-19 virus on the Commonwealth.”

House Bill 358/Senate Bill 152 would repeal Virginia’s ban on the use of PLAs, while House Bill 582/Senate Bill 939 would allow union bosses to impose monopoly bargaining on public sector employees, even workers opposed to the union.

“The fact is,” said Mix, “both of these blatant union boss power grabs will actually increase costs for Virginia taxpayers just as government revenues are dropping because of the economic harm caused by COVID-19.”

PLAs Would Drive Up Costs for Taxpayers and Discriminate Against Non-Union Workers and Contractors

HB 358/SB 152 would remove Virginia’s current ban on PLAs.  Under PLAs, only contractors who hand control of their employees over to union bosses — or who are willing to work under rules set up by union officials — would be able to work on public works projects. 

“Contracts on state construction projects should be awarded on the basis of merit and the value for taxpayers, not just on the basis of whether the company’s employees pay dues to a union boss,” Mix added.

“The over 95% of Virginia construction workers who, for whatever reason, choose not to support a union in their workplaces would be denied the opportunity to work on the very projects their taxes finance,” observed Mix.

In addition to discriminating against the vast majority of non-union workers and contractors, studies show PLAs drive up the cost of construction projects by 10-20% at a time when taxpayers can least afford it. 

“As Virginia’s state and local governments face declining tax revenues and the ever-increasing costs associated with Coronavirus, the last thing taxpayers need is to be getting less bang for their buck just to discriminate against non-union workers,” continued Mix. 

Monopoly Bargaining Infringes on Public Workers’ Rights, Drives Up Costs for Taxpayers

     Mix also noted that HB 582/SB 939, if enacted, would cause significant harm to both public sector workers and Virginia taxpayers.

“The simple fact is, this legislation will both infringe on public employees’ rights and massively raise costs for taxpayers,” noted Mix.

     “What you see in states with union monopoly bargaining is union officials and their handpicked politicians saying, ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, and to heck with taxpayers!’” said Mix.

    Mix pointed to a 2016 study by the Heritage Foundation which showed that a state passing government sector bargaining increases the average annual tax burden by $3,000 for a family of four.

     And an analysis by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research found that the state and local tax burden in the 17 states with the most heavily unionized public sectors was 26% higher than in the 17 states where government union bosses have the fewest workers corralled into monopoly union bargaining.

     Additionally, the Maryland Department of Fiscal Analysis found that government sector bargaining costs between $1.3 and $1.4 million per year in process costs alone for just 12 “bargaining units” of state employees.

     “Considering that this legislation could ultimately create hundreds of bargaining units around the state, we’re talking about a truly massive cost to taxpayers every year,” noted Mix.

     “Without wasteful work rules and the ‘us versus them’ confrontational mentality, Virginia government is better able to focus on real priorities and respond to changing circumstances,” Mix continued.

Mix pointed out that Virginia’s current ban on government sector bargaining, signed into law in 1993 by then-Governor Doug Wilder, gives it an enormous advantage over other states, like neighboring Maryland.

“That, in addition to Virginia’s Right to Work Law, are major reasons Virginia landed CNBC’s #1 State for Business ranking.”

In fact, Virginia would be granting union bosses monopoly bargaining power even as other states are curtailing union monopoly bargaining.  Minnesota Democrat Governor Tim Walz recently issued an executive order, suspending monopoly bargaining contract provisions for 50,000 state employees specifically to better address Coronavirus.

“As other states are recognizing, granting union bosses monopoly bargaining power not only drives up the costs to taxpayers but undermines the flexibility needed to deal with an unprecedented situation like dealing with the Coronavirus,” observed Mix.

Union Monopoly Bargaining Undermines Representative Government

Mix also pointed out that granting monopoly bargaining privileges to union officials will give them special access to the public purse that all other organizations lack.

     “In a representative system of government, it is wrong to allow special interest groups like union officials to bind government in its most basic function — the spending of public money and directing of public services,” said Mix.

Mix pointed to no less a supporter of forced unionism than Franklin Roosevelt, who wrote, “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”

Mix concluded, “For all these reasons, Gov. Northam must reject these union boss power grabs.”

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The National Right to Work Committee, established in 1955, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, single-purpose citizens’ organization dedicated to the principle that all Americans must have the right to join a union if they choose to, but none should ever be forced to affiliate with a union in order to get or keep a job.  Its web address is NRTWC.org