Virginia currently has a right-to-work statute that bans employers from requiring union membership. Supporters are seeking to add right-to-work regulations to the Virginia Constitution to prevent future lawmakers from undoing the state’s current laws, according to media reports. Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-26) argued Attorney General Mark Herring (D) and future general assemblies could not be trusted to enforce right-to-work as a statute. Attorney general spokesman Michael Kelly responded that Herring has been consistent with the law, stating, “Everything he has done has been firmly grounded in the law, affirmed by courts and other authorities, and is in line with where Virginians are on the issues.” House Minority Leader David Toscano (D-57) argued the constitution should not be changed “willy-nilly.”


  • Northern Virginia Labor Federation[8]
  • Virginia AFL-CIO[9]
  • Madison County Democratic Committee[10]
  • Our Revolution[11]

Arguments against

The League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area published the following arguments against the amendment:[7]

1. A constitutional amendment is not necessary since Virginia’s current policy has been in effect for over 60 years.

2. A constitutional amendment does not allow for timely modifications.[5]

Sen. George Barker (D-39) argued:[12]

This amendment is downright unnecessary. Right to work laws have been on the books in Virginia for over 70 years. It is ironic that Republicans frequently accuse Democrats of government overreach, and yet they feel it appropriate to reflect in the Constitution something that has been practice for so long.[5]

Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37) stated:[12]

This is a political maneuver in an election year, an attempt by my Republican colleagues, backed by special corporate interests, to weaken the rights of hardworking Virginians.[5]

Delegate Jeion Ward (D-9) said:[13]

Passage of this constitutional amendment highlights the misplaced priorities that House Republicans have adopted and promoted. Building the New Virginia Economy requires a healthy, viable workforce that is paid a livable wage, guaranteed equal pay for equal work, and has access to affordable health care – not needlessly elevating existing law to the state Constitution that hurts Virginia’s workers.[5]

Delegate Charniele Herring (D-46) argued:[13]

Republicans in the Virginia House are playing at pandering partisan politics with an issue that has shown to be time and again a detriment to people who put in a hard day’s work. While I have the utmost respect for the Virginia Way, to enshrine a policy like Right to Work in the Constitution, rather in the code of Virginia where it can be debated and modified, is reckless and at high cost to the taxpayers both morally and financially.[5]

Delegate Mark Sickles (D-43) stated:[13]

In 2016, my friends in the Majority are offering up even more of the Virginia Code for constitutional status without evidence of any threat whatsoever to ‘the Virginia Way.’ Instead of making unneeded changes to the sacred Constitution of Virginia, we should be laser-focused on building the New Virginia Economy by improving and investing in education, research, and developing a better workforce.[5]

More information:


The Virginia “Right to Work” Amendment, Question 1 is on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Virginia as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. A vote “for” the measure supports adding a section to the constitution that would make it illegal for workplaces to require mandatory labor union membership for employees as a condition for employment.