by Matt Royer
What is it going to take?
I feel like this is a question that we continually have to ask when it comes to helping promote issues and pass laws that actually help — not just performatively help, but actually help — empower the working class. Today in Virginia, the House Labor & Commerce committee met for the final time, and noticeably absent from the logs this year were a number of bills, but one, in particular, was missing:
HB 1755, Delegate Lee Carter’s bill to repeal the so-called Right to Work law in Virginia.
By not docketing this bill, the Virginia House of Delegates, in particular Republicans and some members of the House Democratic caucus, appears to have decided that the needs of the working person do not exceed the profits of the business and management class. To all the Democrats who wouldn’t sign onto this bill, I ask, what are you thinking? Doesn’t being a Democrat mean, among its core principles, fighting for working people?
The fact is, leaving so-called “Right-to-Work” in effect basically tells every working family in Virginia that their livelihood and their needs are not as important or not worthy of being protected as those businesses who exploit their workers through wage theft, unsafe work practices, and paying people pennies on the dollar for what they should be. It is exhausting to see these wealthy business owners getting up and crying that they are being persecuted through what they think is unfair legislation when their own workers are barely making it by and can’t get a bill that is designed to help protect them docketed. No, I’m not going to debate the human element that increases your profits, those people’s lives are non-negotiable. If you can’t run a business where your workers are empowered and treated with the dignity that they deserve, find another profession.
What is it going to take?
I want any lawmakers who decided that this bill wasn’t worth hearing or worth supporting to go to the worker who cannot afford to put food on the table because their employer isn’t paying them what they are worth. I want them to walk to that worker who was forced to come into work in the middle of a pandemic and exposed to a deadly virus without proper protection but was told that clapping and banging pots outside windows were enough to show you. I want them to tell the people who are consistently screwed over by the executives who continue to line their pockets while shortchanging everyone that they would rather listen to the executive and how they are hurting than those who are dying.
What is it going to take?
To all of those Virginia legislators who supported and continue to support these efforts, thank you. For all of the legislation that you DID pass to help working people – and there has been a lot – thank you. But for all of those who turned your back on our people when it came to this issue when they are hurting the most, what are you thinking? You just hurt the very unions you want to support you in your re-election. You want these working people knock on those doors for you, but once you get across that finish line, you don’t want to legislate for them?
I know that some folks will take issue with the tone that I’m striking here. saying, “This isn’t the right way to go about this” and “there’s more to legislating than is in the public.” Well, we’ve been trying to do it “the right way” for years. We have come to legislators every year asking for them to help us, asking for them to pass a law, asking, just asking, and where does it get us? Right back here, year after year.
This is so much more than just one piece of legislation or “some law.” This is a pattern of disenfranchisement of the working class and progressive movement, where you are told that your support is needed but then everyone is consistently told that “it’s not the right time”, “we have too much other stuff to work on”, “there is just simply not enough support in the legislature to make it work”, and on and on and on. So when IS the right time?
OK, so it wasn’t the right time when we didn’t have the majority in Virginia. Then we all marched right out there, knocked on doors, voted and won back the General Assembly. It wasn’t the right time when we didn’t have Congress or the Presidency. So we went out and got that too. What else ya got?
But I still would like to believe that you all have it in yourselves to fix this.
To our Democratic Senators and Delegates who are reluctant to support this effort, I know that you have it in your power to do the right thing. I know that you all have the capacity to support this issue. I know that truly deep down you must care enough about our working people to show some courage. We have heard you say it when you needed our support back during re-election. You showed it back in 2016 when we faced this going into our constitution and you can do the same thing now if you are given another chance to repeal this law. You must take that next step in order to do the right thing. We don’t have opportunities like this every year. And we don’t know how much longer we will have it so why not do it now?
And if everyone outside from the legislature is not fully enraged right now, you are not paying attention and it’s time that all of those who feel this way come together, organize their communities, and get it done themselves.
And if you don’t agree, what is it going to take?