After voting against it earlier this year, Torian now says he supports repealing right-to-work

September 9, 2021

SEP 7, 2021 | VA Scope

In an election season reversal, a powerful Democrat in the House of Delegates now says repealing Virginia’s right-to-work law is a priority to him. This comes just months after he voted to kill the legislation that would have repealed the law earlier this year.

House Appropriations Chairman Luke Torian D-Prince William said in a newsletter sent to supporters on Labor Day that repealing Virginia’s right-to-work law is a priority for him. But that opportunity was before Torian earlier this year when Del. Lee Carter D-Manassas was able to get the bill on the House floor for a vote. The legislation was eventually killed on a vote of 83-13, with Torian being one of the 83 who voted against it.

The news of Torian’s reversal was first tweeted by Ben Paviour of VPM News. 

“It’s an incredible turn-around from chastising me for introducing the bill in 2019 to campaigning on it in 2021,” Carter said in an interview Tuesday. 

Carter is a self-described socialist and was defeated in his House primary earlier this summer by a more moderate candidate. He pushed for repealing the right-to-work for most of his two terms in the House. “I’m glad so many people are coming around,” he said Tuesday. 

But even after leading the charge for repealing right-to-work and losing his seat, Carter says the law still needs to be thrown out. “The law was designed to exploit racial tensions to stop working people from cooperating to fight for a better life,” Carter said. “It was terrible 70 years ago, it’s terrible now, and it’s got to go.”

Right-to-work is not a concept that is necessarily easy to grasp due to the misleading name. The law keeps unions from requiring membership at a place of employment which prevents the employees from effectively unionizing. Employees can still form a union, but they are not compelled to and employers are always free to hire non-union workers. 

28 states have right-to-work laws on the books. 

The House Republican Caucus sent out a statement Tuesday afternoon denouncing the statement from Torian. “When the Chairman of Appropriations speaks, members of the majority listen. This is a clear signal that if they hold the majority, House Democrats will push through Right to Work repeal, creating compulsory union membership for Virginians,” said Garren Shipley, a spokesman for the House Republican Caucus. “Workers who want to make their own choice on union membership should vote accordingly.”

Torian is a powerful Democrat in the House, chairing the committee that decides which legislation receives funding in the General Assembly. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment. 

The office of Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn also did not respond to questions. 

“Luke Torian made clear that Virginia House Democrats are poised to repeal right-to-work if they win in November,” said Cally Perkins, a spokesperson for the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). “The Democrats who voted against right-to-work repeal in February should stop pandering to their fringe base and denounce Torian’s new position.”

AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, says that this law makes life harder for working families. “The real purpose of ‘Right to Work’ laws is to tilt the balance toward big corporations and further rig the system at the expense of working families,” they say on their website

Torian also stated in the email to his supporters that he will prioritize paid leave for all, collective bargaining for employees, paid sick days, and increasing the minimum wage to $15/hr. He is facing a second challenge from Republican Maria Martin this November after defeating her by 47 points in 2019. 

All 100 House seats are up for election this November as well as governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. Early voting begins in less than two weeks on Sept. 17.