When I think about this current legislative session, one of the things I am most excited about it the chance to finally repeal, “Right to Work,” and get legislation passed that is on the right side of workers.

“Right to Work” is an abusive tool that businesses use to control their workers, keep them underpaid, underinsured, and the business has the luxury of being able to fire them whenever they want to, without reason. Martin Luther King, Jr spoke of its injustice and encouraged its repeal. According to the AFL-CIO website, pay gaps between men and women are higher in, “Right to Work” states.

In Virginia, our elected officials often brag that we are rated number one for business but fail to mention that we are also dead last for workers in terms of wage policies, worker protection policies and the right to organize.

The President of the Virginia chapter of the AFL-CIO, Doris Crouse-Mays, sums it up perfectly, “The number one for business ranking seems to come at the expense of workers here in the state."

It means our laws and regulations are helping business instead of its employees, employees that make the business what it is. It means that we don’t have protections against discrimination, that we aren’t guaranteed maternity leave or paid sick leave. We don’t have the guarantee that if we get hurt on the job, we will be taken care of.

Because of the labor movements of the past, we have child labor laws, a 40-hour work week, safer working conditions and weekends off. Our current labor movement is fighting for pay equity, for sick and family leave, and for the right to organize. They are fighting for increasing the minimum wage so that all workers make a living wage. They are fighting for the working poor. They are fighting to end, “Right to Work.”

I often think about all the things that divide us. I think that is purposeful to keep us fighting with one another over a variety of issues so that we don’t unite to fight for ourselves and each other. If the working and poor people came together there would be nothing we couldn’t accomplish. We could finally have the workers’ rights and protections that all workers deserve and desperately need.

Jennifer Lewis


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