N.C. voters would decide if the state’s anti-union “right to work” law should be added to the constitution under a bill approved by the state House Tuesday in a 75-44 vote.
North Carolina has been a right-to-work state that has banned mandatory union dues since 1947, but House Republicans say a constitutional amendment would further limit union agendas.
Under House Bill 819, voters would decide in November 2018 if the state law governing union activity should be added to the constitution. The law – and the constitutional amendment – bans employers from requiring their workers to join a labor organization or pay dues to a group.
“No man or woman should be forced to join a labor union when they seek out employment,” said the bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Justin Burr of Albemarle. “Workers should have a choice, and I support the rights of those individual workers.”
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Burr said the existing “right to work” law is under threat from labor unions that have a “strong desire to repeal our current status and ultimately want to unionize North Carolina as part of their southern strategy.”
Democrats, however, said the constitutional amendment is unnecessary. “North Carolina has had a right to work law for more than 70 years, and neither party has made a serious attempt to change that,” said Rep. Duane Hall, a Raleigh Democrat. “I don’t want North Carolina’s constitution to look like California’s, which is convoluted and confusing.”
Rep. Michael Speciale, a New Bern Republican, said the law could easily be repealed unless an amendment is passed. “That law can change with the next General Assembly,” he said. “Just because it hasn’t doesn’t mean it can’t.”
The bill now goes to the Senate, which must also approve it with a three-fifths majority to get the issue on the 2018 ballot.