Former senator George Allen unveiled his “Freedom to Work” agenda Wednesday, releasing a collection of proposals that would make it easier for workers to avoid joining unions and for the government to avoid having to strike labor deals or pay “prevailing wages” on public works projects.
Allen, who unveiled his agenda at Dynax America Corporation in Roanoke, is the likely Republican nominee in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D). Ex-governor Timothy M. Kaine is expected to win the Democratic nod.
Allen has sought to make labor policy a focal point of his campaign against Kaine, putting particular emphasis — as many Republicans have nationwide — on a controversial decision by the National Labor Relations Board to sue Boeing for allegedly deciding to open a new plant in South Carolina rather than Washington state in retaliation for worker strikes in the latter location.
Arguing that the state’s right-to-work laws “give Virginia a crucial competitive economic advantage,” Allen said in a press release that the Obama administration “through executive fiat and government intrusion ... is waging war on private employers under the guise of protecting workers.”
Allen’s plan would amend the National Labor Relations Act to prevent the NLRB from being able to force a company to change locations, and would short-circuit the pending suit against Boeing.
Allen would also prohibit the use of Project Labor Agreements, which the government negotiates with unions before work starts on federal construction projects. And Allen would repeal the Davis-Bacon laws that require “prevailing wages” be paid on public works ventures.
Workers could not be compelled to join a union or pay union dues in order to get a particular job under Allen’s plan, and they would be guaranteed the right to a secret ballot in votes on whether to unionize.
Taken together, Allen’s proposals amount to a wish-list for conservatives and business groups hoping to diminish the power of unions, particularly at the federal level. Organized labor plays a huge role in supporting and subsidizing Democrats nationwide. Allen unveiled a broader economic policy blueprint in June.
Kaine, for his part, has long said he supports Virginia’s right-to-work laws. On the NLRB case against Boeing, Kaine’s campaign has said he believes companies should be able to choose where they operate, but that the courts will have to decide the specific merits of NLRB’s lawsuit.
Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine said Allen’s agenda falls short of the mark.
“Governor Kaine believes real worker freedom is a payroll tax cut for the middle class and small businesses, which George Allen opposes,” Hoffine said.
“Governor Kaine believes real worker freedom is protecting Social Security and Medicare so that people who’ve worked hard all their lives can have a dignified retirement, which George Allen opposes. And, Governor Kaine believes real worker freedom is a serious plan to create jobs for struggling Americans, which George Allen doesn’t have.”