Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) signaled his support Friday for legislation to strengthen the power of unions to recruit members and negotiate with employers.
Kaine, who is running for re-election this year, joined a majority of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate by co-sponsoring the Workplace Action for a Growing Economy (WAGE) Act, according to NBC news.
The legislation introduced by Senate Assistant Democratic Leader Patty Murray (Wash.) seeks to make it easier for employees to join or form unions, strengthen protections for workers who engage in collective bargaining, and increase penalties on employers who are in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
In a statement announcing his backing of the measure, Kaine asserted his commitment to ensuring workers have the ability to unionize and "stand up" for greater "protections at work."
"In order to expand economic opportunity, we must ensure that workers have a voice to advocate for the wages and conditions they deserve," Kaine said. "I’m proud to co-sponsor the WAGE Act to help enable workers in Virginia and across the country to stand up for fair pay and protections at work."
The senator's backing of the bill comes one day after he garnered the endorsement of the Virginia chapter of the United Mine Workers of America in his bid for re-election.
The senator's rhetoric in favor of the WAGE Act seems to indicate he is now firmly in line with Democratic Party orthodoxy on labor issues. Kaine, a former lieutenant governor and governor of Virginia, has a long and checkered history on the topic. While a candidate for statewide office in the mid-2000s, Kaine pledged to preserve Virginia's right-to-work law, a commitment he reaffirmed when first running for Senate in 2012. Virginia is one of 28 states to maintain a right-to-work law, which restrict certain union powers, particularly when it comes to requiring union membership or payment of union dues.
Kaine's long-held stance on right-to-work changed when he was tapped by Hillary Clinton to serve as her running mate during the 2016 presidential election. Kaine's reversal, however, wasn't enough to please the more progressives elements of the Democratic Party, who castigated Clinton for not choosing someone with a stronger and longer commitment to labor for the second spot on the ticket.
Since 2016, Kaine's voting record has shifted to increasingly favor organized labor.