McAuliffe's Complicated Labor History

Union-backed Dem has fought right-to-work laws elsewhere

Terry McAuliffe / AP
May 21, 2013

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe has said he wants Virginia to remain a right-to-work state, a surprising stance given his cozy relationship with some of the country’s largest unions.

McAuliffe initially came out in support of right-to-work legislation during a January event sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business.

"We are a great right-to-work state, we should never change that," said McAuliffe.

He reiterated those comments last week in response to a reporter who asked what stances McAuliffe has in common with opponent Ken Cuccinelli.

"I’m for keeping Virginia as a right-to-work state, I’m for responsible off-shore drilling, and I believe we both share a commitment to Virginia," he said.

However, the groups supporting McAuliffe are firmly against any implementation of right-to-work laws.

Unions have already contributed $562,030 to McAliffe's campaign.

The Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) features talking points on its website to help its members argue against right-to-work. LiUNA has contributed at least $25,000 to McAuliffe.

The Service Employees International Association (SEIU) was a major opponent of legislation in Virginia that would have permanently embedded right-to-work laws into the constitution. The SEIU and its PAC have already contributed $50,000 to McAuliffe.

McAuliffe has not always supported right-to-work legislation and helped defeat a similar law in New Hampshire.

McAuliffe warned New Hampshire legislators as chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2003 that passage of right-to-work laws would probably mean that the DNC would put an end to New Hampshire’s first-primary status in favor of Michigan.

The threat from McAuliffe forced New Hampshire unions into a frenzy.

According to New Hampshire’s Union Leader, the AFL-CIO hired a team of Republican lobbyists led by President George H. W. Bush’s White House political director David Carney that worked with New Hampshire's republican legislature to kill right-to-work.

Carney used the potential loss of the primary to convince the overwhelming Republican majority to kill the legislation.

"Republicans in the House should say, 'We don't want the Democrats to blame us for hurting the primary. If we kill this, then they can't blame us if they lose the primary,'" said Carney.

Immediately after the bill was defeated, McAuliffe threatened Michigan party leaders that if they were to challenge New Hampshire’s primary then he would deny Michigan delegates a portion of their seats at that year’s national convention.

Right-to-work legislation was defeated in New Hampshire.