Virginia AFL-CIO President Doris Crouse-Mays joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss how the state labor federation will improve the lives of workers and make Virginia a better place to work. She also talked about progress made to repeal anti-worker laws.
State politics in Virginia
Control of the Statehouse in Virginia is highly contested. Democrats currently hold a 21 to 19 seat advantage in the state Senate, while also holding a 55 to 45 advantage in the House of Delegates.
Crouse-Mays said there are several big elections coming up. Two union members currently sit on the House Labor and Commerce Committee. While the organized labor community has other friends in the Statehouse, it will be crucial to see these representatives win their re-election campaigns.
She also said that since the margin in the Senate is so narrow, Democrats will need to pick up seats in order to impose their will. The Lieutenant Governor has frequently been called upon to cast a tie-breaking vote. Crouse-Mays hopes this position remains in control of a labor friendly candidate.
Oxfam report shows Virginia not friendly to workers
Since 2018, Oxfam has released an annual Best States to Work Index that assesses the state-by-state conditions for workers around the country. Virginia has historically been one of the best states for business, but near the bottom for workers. Just a few years ago, Virginia was number one for business, but number 51 for workers.
In the 2021 report, Virginia remained number one for business, but jumped up to number 23 for workers. Crouse-Mays said this is an improvement, but more can be done.
She thinks the successful jump was due to progressive state policy. The primary improvement is that public employees can collectively bargain for the first time in 44 years.
Progress has also been made by raising the state’s minimum wage. In construction, a ban on Project Labor Agreements was repealed, making the state more friendly to union tradesmen and tradeswomen. Other gains were made to combat wage theft, improve workers’ compensation and more.
So-called “Right to Work” laws remain a problem in the state, however. The Virginia AFL-CIO is meeting with political candidates to train them on the dangers of the anti-labor legislation and influence them to repeal it.