Category Archives: Labor & workforce

Taking on Workforce Development — Again

Regional Center for Workforce Education and Training, Woodbridge Campus, Northern Virginia Community College,

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Richmond Times-Dispatch (RTD) reports that Governor Glenn Youngkin plans to present a major restructuring of Virginia’s workforce development efforts to the 2023 General Assembly. I commend the Governor for taking this issue on. It is the sort of “good government” initiative that needs to be done, but requires a lot of work for which there is little political payback, even if it is successful.

“Workforce development” is a broad term. From one perspective, one of the primary functions of all the public education programs supported by the state from kindergarten through graduate school is to provide Virginians the skills and knowledge they will need to enter the workforce. However, in the context being discussed in this article, the term refers to smaller, specifically targeted programs.

These programs are spread throughout state government in a myriad of agencies. The RTD article describes it as spanning “12 state agencies and 20 outside groups and some 800 programs.” The existence of local workforce investment boards and the availability of federal funding adds to the complexity. Another complicating factor is the activity of some state agencies in this area that is likely not included in the traditional list of workforce development programs. Continue reading

Status of Public Employee Collective Bargaining

Public sector workers organize in Loudoun. (Service Employees International Union)

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Virginia Mercury has performed a service by compiling a list of the status of public employee bargaining in the Commonwealth.

So far, eight jurisdictions have adopted ordinances authorizing collective bargaining agreements. There is activity in another six localities.  “Activity” is defined as campaigns advocating collective bargaining agreements or local government officials drafting such agreements.  One locality has rejected collective bargaining.  Continue reading

Why Not Virginia for Semiconductor Manufacturing Expansion?

Virginia Engineering Programs

by James C. Sherlock

Among the things that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has made clear is the vulnerability of Taiwan and with it, the access of the U.S. economy to the 90% of advanced computer chips manufactured there.

The national security requirement for domestic chip manufacturing brings opportunity. It is the nation’s most urgent manufacturing priority. So, why not build the needed plants in Virginia? Is the Commonwealth organized to attract those investments?

For the answer to the last question I looked at the Virginia Department of Commerce and Industry, the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and Virginia’s engineering schools and found nothing to suggest Virginia is making an organized effort.

Much of Virginia’s headline effort in engineering education is to expand opportunities for Amazon workers in Northern Virginia.

I suggest Virginia focus its Department of Commerce and Trade on chip manufacturing, create dedicated educational consortiums, identify available facilities and workforces like those of the shuttered Rolls Royce plant in Prince George County and offer tax abatement packages to actively recruit semiconductor manufacture. Continue reading

Deja Vu, All Over Again

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

As reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Governor Youngkin “wants state employees back in their offices under a new telework policy that will take effect July 5 to guide executive branch agencies out of workplace restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

To that effect, he has announced a policy that will let state agencies determine which jobs will be eligible for remote work and how often employees will be allowed to perform their duties outside of their government offices.

That is a reasonable-sounding approach.  In fact, it is so reasonable that it was the state’s policy before COVID-19 resulted in most state employees working from home.

The big difference now, of course, is that so many state employees have experienced working from home and many of them like it. The pressure will be on agency heads and supervisors to determine which jobs are suitable for remote work and to deal with those employees who will be unhappy that they will not be allowed to continue to work from home as often as they would like.

Unionize Virginia’s Worst Nursing Home Chains

by James C. Sherlock

If you go back to the series of articles I published here in October of 2021, you can refresh your memory on the dangers represented by Virginia’s worst nursing home chains.

If you look at the complete spreadsheet of every Virginia nursing home from that data sorted by ownership, the bad actors jump off the page. Their business models treat understaffing as a feature, not a problem. The fact that it endangers their employees and kills their patients seems not to matter.

The Commonwealth’s executive and legislative branches have for a very long time absolutely ignored their responsibilities as the state legislature and as the state executive regulator, federal and state inspector and state licensor of nursing homes, respectively. There is as yet no sign that will improve. I have hopes the new administration will step up to those responsibilities, but we’ll have to wait and see.

For now, the only fix that appears viable is unionization of the work forces of the bad actors. I encourage their employees to do it for themselves and their patients. Continue reading

Richmond Starbucks Employees Vote to Unionize

Photo credit: Tag24

by James A. Bacon

Employees at five Starbucks coffee stores in the Richmond area have voted for union representation — and I’m just fine with that. I oppose public-sector unions for reasons frequently enumerated on this blog. But if private-sector employees want to band together to increase their bargaining power with management, that’s their right in a free society. I wish them all the luck in the world. With paychecks shredded by an 8.5% surge in the cost of living in the past year, they need all the help they can get.

Employees voted for the union by a wide margin, reports The Richmond Times-DispatchThe vote followed a union loss in a representation election in Springfield last week, according to Tag24, These votes were part of a larger organizing campaign conducted by the Northern Virginia Labor Federation and Workers United. Twenty Starbucks stores have now unionized nationally, and 220 others have sought elections.

WUSF Public Media delves into the issues at Virginia Starbucks stores. Continue reading

Teacher Shortage and No End in Sight


by Matt Hurt

Twenty years ago in Southwest Virginia, PreK-6-endorsed teachers would apply at a rate of 5 to 10 applicants for each posted position. Fully endorsed teachers would sometimes spend years in hourly teachers’ aides positions waiting for their turn to get their own classroom and a full-time teaching contract. Then, a little more than ten years ago, the supply began to dry up. Now the flood of teachers produced by our colleges has dwindled to a trickle. As it turns out, all of this occurred prior to the current political unpleasantness.

During the pandemic, teachers really began to burn out. JMU soon is expected to publish a paper which describes this phenomenon. My understanding is that researchers found that during COIVD teachers felt like they were not able to help their students be successful. They got into the field not to make millions of dollars annually, but to help kids. The pandemic and school closures made this much more difficult. Now that so many kids are so far behind, many teachers find it difficult to believe they’ll ever be able to help them get caught up.

This year, I have listened to a disturbing number of administrators talk about teachers leaving in the middle of the year. This certainly happened prior to this year, but it was a very uncommon event. Now, it is all too common. Continue reading

Virginia Slides Lower in ALEC Economic Rankings

American Legislative Exchange Council rated Virginia 30th out of 50 states using these three measures of economic performance over ten years. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

First published earlier today by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

As measured by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Virginia’s economic outlook has continued its precipitous drop and now barely ranks in the top half among the American states, 24th out of 50. A decade ago it was in the top five, ranking third in 2011 and 2012 and fifth in 2013.

Using three direct measures of actual economic performance, gross domestic product and job growth and population out migration, ALEC placed Virginia 30th among the 50 states over the past decade. Neighboring North Carolina, on the other hand, ranked 12th in recent economic performance and second in economic outlook.

Virginia’s number 24 ranking in the annual “Rich States, Poor States” outlook comparison will be dismissed by some as less important than other indicators of competitiveness, including the ultimate bragging point of being number one in the last CNBC ranking of best states for business. But the downward trend is dramatic, Virginia having ranked 17th last year and dropping seven places in this survey. Continue reading

Racial Bean Counting for Dominion’s Offshore Wind Project?

by James A. Bacon

Dominion Energy  expects to create 900 construction jobs and support 1,100 employees in ongoing operations for its proposed $9.8 billion offshore wind farm. Hundreds more jobs could be created if, as hoped, companies in the wind power industry begin manufacturing components and providing ancillary services in Hampton Roads.

As part of its wind farm initiative, the utility has created an economic development plan for maximizing investment and job creation in Virginia and ensuring that the benefits are shared broadly, including with veterans and “workers from historically economically disadvantaged communities.” The plan says the company will engage with economic development authorities, business trade organizations, workforce development groups, and “minority civic and business organizations.” It even plans to collect data on the number of women, veterans and minorities employed by suppliers with contracts over $500,000 in value.

But that’s not good enough for the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Dominion’s Plan is not sufficient to meet the diversity, equity, and inclusion targets” outlined in the state code, says Mark Little, co-founder of CREATE in State Corporation Commission testimony on behalf of the Sierra Club.

Little wants Dominion to set “ambitious, progressive targets” on the number and percentage of employees to be hired by sex, race/ethnicity, and veteran status, collect detailed statistics on the demographic composition of the hires, and publish updates every six months. Furthermore, Little says Dominion needs to make “structural changes” such as hiring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officers to execute its vision. Continue reading

Exploding Requirements and Workforce Shortages – An Existential Threat to the Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

The hottest buzz around many of the public schools, including my home area of Virginia Beach, is around the very real hardships posed by unprecedented staff shortages.

On return from COVID, it seems that our schools faced record shortages of personnel to deal with students that were traumatized and afflicted with massive learning losses.

I said “seems” because there is no accurate count. The new online report VDOE has recently published shows billet vacancies as of October 1 2021 to be 2 1/2 times a similar count it provided me two years ago.

A compelling and disturbing trend. Yet the personnel problem is even worse than we presently have documented.

The new, comprehensive VDOE report of public school personnel shortages is false because some of the inputs were false. The real numbers were higher.  In some cases much higher. Lies were told. I will demonstrate that in this article.

Other well-documented data show both an outsized number of pending retirements from the schools and the ongoing and rapid collapse of the new teacher pipelines.

And we don’t have a sufficient number of professional support specialists — school psychologists, social workers, school counselors and others. That also cannot be quickly remedied.

So the trends are all going in the wrong direction. For the schools, supply is decreasing. Demand, driven by programmatic decisions at VDOE as well as the strain of remediation of COVID learning losses, has been increasing.

This word for the crisis is existential. With a tip of the hat to Herb Stein, things that cannot continue will stop. Continue reading

FOIA Council Response on Open Meeting Requirements in Discussions of Local Government Contracts with Public Unions

Courtesy collectivebargaining.com

by  James C. Sherlock

I submitted questions to the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council concerning FOIA open meetings requirements applicable to local government sessions discussing contracts with unions.

I received a very prompt and thorough reply.  

The following is the response of Alan Gernhart, Esq., Executive Director. Continue reading

Negotiating with Public Sector Unions in Virginia

Courtesy negotiations.com

by James C. Sherlock

Some Virginia local governments will be negotiating this year for the first time with public sector unions.

There is a lot of experience and recommendations documented in other states upon which those governments can draw.

Recommendation #1 is that cities, counties and towns hire:

  • law firms with proven experience representing municipal governments in negotiations with public unions; and
  • an independent auditor with experience in contract negotiations to assess the fiscal impacts of proffered terms and conditions.

The unions will show up with seasoned contract negotiators. It is not a game that favors rookies.

Always remembering recommendation #1, we’ll take a look at Virginia law and then at what the professional literature suggests are some of the ways for governments to prepare for first-time union negotiations. Continue reading

Richmond, Its Unions and Taxes

by James C. Sherlock

Richmond residents should note that:

The number of employees at City of Richmond in year 2020 was 4,140.

Average annual salary was $56,410 and median salary was $50,001. City of Richmond average salary is 20 percent higher than USA average and median salary is 15 percent higher than USA median.

Median per capita income in Richmond in 2020 dollars was $35,862. Median household income was $51,421. Approximately 21% of Richmond citizens live below the poverty level.

The City of Richmond’s FY 2023 total General Fund budget is estimated to be $836,015,828, an 8.18% increase when compared to the FY 2022.

The increases in spending represent a projected balanced budget based on estimated increases in revenues. Those in turn are driven by a projected increase in General Property Taxes – notably a 13.13% increase in real estate tax collections; increases in Sales Tax (9.27%); and increases in Prepared Meals Taxes (15.95%).

Those increases in tax collections are largely from Richmond taxpayers. How many got double-digit increases in income in 2022? Just asking.

Now the Richmond City Council is about to approve negotiations with its unions on pay and benefits. The RPS, of course has gone much further than the City Council in putting everything on the table.

Those costs are not in the budget. Continue reading

Richmond Parents and Taxpayers, Welcome to Chicago Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

The gulf between what the City of Richmond School Board (RSB) and the Richmond City Council (RCC) on what will be negotiated with their public unions is actually an ocean.

The RSB has authorized the negotiation of virtually everything about how the schools are run. It leaves nothing off the table except the right to strike and the right to negotiate a closed shop (Virginia is still a right to work state), both of which state law still prohibits. But the unions can negotiate what are essentially the work rules of a closed shop.

In contrast, the City Council is poised to pass an ordinance on May 5th from two candidate drafts, one from Mayor Stoney and the other from three Council members. The Mayor’s version states what will be negotiated — pay and benefits. The other states what will not be negotiated with an eleven-point description of the City’s Rights and Authorities.

The City Council drafts, especially the Mayor’s, have it right. They note the City Council’s duties under the laws of Virginia and to the citizens of their city.

Not so the school board. The RSB resolution acknowledges only one stakeholder: its unions.

Unmentioned in the RSB resolution is exactly who is going to represent the city in its negotiations with its unions. Ideally it will be a team composed of City Council (finance) and School Board subject-matter experts. If so the city reps will be operating under two sets of negotiating rules in direct opposition to one another.

I’d buy a ticket, but maybe under the sunshine laws negotiations will be on TV. Continue reading

Know the Terms of Surrender in Negotiating With Teachers Unions

Courtesy of Show Me Institute

by James C. Sherlock

Franklin Roosevelt thought collective bargaining agreements incompatible with public sector work.

Today’s left, unburdened by the public interest, finds FDR’s principles at best quaint.

Since May of last year collective bargaining is legal in Virginia for local government employees by local option, but for not state employees.

The issues most people think of being negotiated by unions are pay and benefits and, in blue collar unions, on-the-job safety. For teachers unions, we need to be sure negotiations are limited to pay and benefits, or they will take over the running of the schools.

Such a takeover is now policy in Richmond Public Schools. Continue reading