William H. Fralin Jr. is chairman of the Virginia Business Council.

The members of Virginia Business Council enjoy the employment of more than 200,000 Virginians. We represent some of the largest employers in the state, and many of our members have more than 2,000 employees. We have interacted with members of the General Assembly and governors of both parties as a sounding board for business policies throughout our 41 years of existence. It is rare that the council takes a position on specific legislation; rather, we participate in our political discourse by taking broader policy positions and advocating for positive economic-development principles. The threatened repeal and/or weakening of Virginia’s right-to-work law is one of these rare instances.

Virginia’s right-to-work statute simply provides that no individual will be forced to join a labor union or pay fees to a labor union to work in the place of his or her choice.

Virginia has enjoyed tremendous prosperity over the past several decades and repeatedly has been named the best state for business. It has enjoyed economic-development victories, including the recent announcement that Amazon will locate its second headquarters in the commonwealth. Our state’s long-standing position on right-to-work has been integral, if not essential, to such success.

To repeal our right-to-work statute now would, without question, put existing and future employers at a distinct disadvantage in competition with other right-to-work states, including our border states of North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. Many companies will refuse to even consider investment in states where the freedom of association embodied in right-to-work statutes is not protected. In fact, the recent Washington Post article “Northern Virginia’s economic growth risks leaving Maryland’s suburbs behind” supports the importance of Virginia’s right-to-work status.

It is important to understand we are not taking a position that is anti-union. Freedom of association is the very foundation upon which a union’s right to organize is based. If members of our workforce elect to form a union by freely associating to do so, we recognize that right. We believe that unions should also respect the rights of individuals to freely associate with organizations — or choose not to do so.

There are proposals before the General Assembly that try to “compromise” or “bridge the gap” in our right-to-work statute by allowing a mandatory assessment of fees that workers would have to pay just to exercise their right to work where they choose. We believe such legislation is tantamount to an outright repeal, and the effects of enacting such would be exactly the same. No economic-development prospect is going to split hairs about whether a state is right-to-work. The infringement on the freedom of association remains.

We hope that the continued economic prosperity and freedom of the citizens of the commonwealth will be protected by the 2020 General Assembly, just as it has been for 73 years.

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