Category Archives: Labor & workforce

Stronger Teacher Unions = Weaker Parents

Loudoun County parents pack a School Board meeting. Photo credit: Idiocracy News Media

Allowing collective bargaining will put yet another special interest ahead of the parents who simply want a say in what is best for their children.

by F. Vincent Vernuccio

First published by Virginia Works and reprinted with the author’s permission. 

Virginia parents soon could lose even more control over their children’s education.

Parents frustrated with school curriculum and other education issues throughout the state have earned national attention. But as that frustration boils over into school board recall petitions and the race for governor, one policy change that could limit parental and voter choice is being overlooked: public sector collective bargaining.

new law in Virginia gives local governments and school boards the power to permit government unions to have a monopoly on representing public employees. If school boards pass the law, they will be forced to negotiate with these union officials.

This will put an extra, unaccountable unelected layer of bureaucracy between parents, teachers and schools.  Continue reading

Why Virginia Job Growth Lags Region, Nation

Chesapeake Climate Action Network webpage boasting about the defeat of a gas pipeline expansion, a signal seen by location managers all around the U.S.

by Steve Haner

“Virginia’s economic recovery continues to outpace the nation… Our unemployment rate remains well below the national average and has fallen consistently every month for the past fifteen months… I’m proud of our roaring economic growth…”

So claimed Governor Ralph Northam (D) in a September 17 news release.

It came just after Virginia’s economy showed especially anemic results in August employment data, capping a period of poor performance effectively described in a recent Bacon’s Rebellion post by Richmond economist A. Fletcher Mangum.  Virginia’s job growth this spring and summer has trailed the vast majority of other states, with the August data placing us at a shameful 47th out of 50. Simply achieving the national average growth rate that month would have meant 75,000 more jobs. Continue reading

Virginia Job Growth Trails U.S. Averages

Click for larger view.

by A. Fletcher Mangum

A. Fletcher Mangum

Virginia’s employment growth has been underperforming the national economy for quite some time. As shown in Figure 1, soon after the recovery from the Great Recession began in earnest in 2011 Virginia’s year-over-year growth in total employment uncharacteristically fell behind the national economy and even briefly went negative in 2014.

Then in early 2020, just as in the rest of the country, economic conditions in Virginia changed drastically when the governors’ lockdowns of economic activity were imposed in response to the pandemic. Between March and April of that year nearly 20 million jobs were lost nationally (or approximately one out of every eight jobs in the country), while in Virginia the employment loss was 428,000 jobs (or approximately one out of every nine jobs in the state). Virginia was not as badly hit as the nation as a whole because of its heavy dependence on federal employment and contracting (which were not significantly impacted by the lockdowns) and disproportionate employment in the Professional and Business Services sector (where people were better able to work remotely).

However, history is now repeating itself as Virginia once again falls behind the nation in the recovery and that trend is getting worse. In April of this year, when year-over-year employment growth turned the corner and moved into positive territory nationally, Virginia trailed the pack and continues to do so. In April Virginia ranked 41st among the states in year-over-year total employment growth, gained ground to hit 32nd in May and 30th in June , and then fell back to 39th in July and all the way to 47th in August. Continue reading

Behind the Labor-Shortage Headlines


by James A. Bacon

The news is full of stories about labor shortages. The latest case in point, which prompted this column, is Virginia Mercury article focusing on the paucity of nurses. The author lists several plausible reasons to explain the deficit, from COVID-related burnout to a shortage of nursing school faculty. Similarly, Bacon’s Rebellion has discussed the shortfalls in police departments across Virginia and the lack of teachers. I hear trucking companies advertising repeatedly on the radio for truck drivers, and as I look for suitable living arrangements for aging relatives, I have heard similar tales from retirement communities. Meanwhile, small businesses everywhere are reporting that they cannot find enough workers.

While observers can cite narrow-bore explanations to explain what’s happening in, say, the nursing industry, the ubiquity of the problem across all economic sectors suggests that there may be a common cause. Continue reading

VEC Made $930 Million in “Incorrect” Payments Last Year

by James A. Bacon

Inundated by unemployment claims during the COVID-19-induced recession last year, the Virginia Employment Commission made an estimated $930 million in “incorrect” payments last year, according to an update by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

The magnitude of wasted dollars has gone largely unnoticed as the media and the Northam administration have focused on VEC’s failure to deliver unemployment benefits to out-of-work Virginians, many of who have fallen behind on their rent payments now face eviction.

Between March 2020 and July 2021, the VEC paid out $13.9 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits, states JLARC. The number of claims jumped tenfold, and guidance for administering the gush in federal relief dollars was unclear and evolved over time. The VEC’s obsolete claims-processing software was overwhelmed. Further, the VEC compounded its problems by making forms and instructions overly “complex and confusing.” Continue reading

Schools Desperately Short of Bus Drivers; Carpooling App Needed

by James C. Sherlock

A Fairfax County Public Schools Twitter message August 19:

“If you can walk with or drive your child (and perhaps a neighbor’s), please do. Also, we ask that you update your transportation status through your school, if you choose to not have your child take the bus.”

WTOP reported that as of Aug. 12, Fairfax County Public Schools was short 190 drivers.

Parents have already made plans and notified school districts if their children will be bus riders. I expect that the interlocking administration and logistics of car pools and buses to T-bone one another because of the late start and lack of preparation for the car pool option at scale. But that is where many districts are.

Driving a school bus is a difficult, nerve wracking and hazardous job. The training required makes them professional drivers. The demand for such skills and the pay and benefits in the private sector are very high and growing because of a labor shortage in the face of increasing demand.

Like pretty much every other type of blue collar work. Continue reading

Local Unions Are Recognized Before Workers Vote?

by F. Vincent Vernuccio

Local government leaders are negotiating with union executives who have not been officially recognized by public employees they claim to represent.

Counties in northern Virginia are taking steps to allow public sector collective bargaining. But they are doing it with the support of union executives – not a groundswell of voter or public employee support. Continue reading

Slow Service: The New Normal

by Kerry Dougherty

We waited at least 20 minutes after we were seated to place our drink orders. Another 15 to get our cocktails. Another 30 for appetizers (cups of soup) and another 30 for our entrees.

It was so late when we finished, we skipped dessert.

Welcome to the “new normal” in dining out: Painfully slow service.

It seems it’s the same almost everywhere. Restaurateurs, unable to hire employees who are cashing fat government checks for doing nothing, are hobbled by lack of workers.

Shoot, one oceanfront restaurant recently posted a notice on its marquee that read something like, “Be Patient We Have No Staff.” Another Beach establishment is plastered with “help wanted” signs — even in the ladies’ room.

I’m not complaining about my Saturday night dining experience, simply observing. Despite the desultory service, dinner was delish and the company was even better. Our server was cheerful, just slow. Continue reading

Freedom From Union Dues Hangs on Warner

Washington Post photo of a cake delivered to Virginia Senator Mark Warner in May, encouraging his support for the pending PRO Act. So far he is not supporting it.

By Vincent Vernuccio 

First published by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

A bill under active consideration in Congress would allow unions to get Virginia workers fired for not paying union fees. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act, among many other things would end right-to-work laws in Virginia and in 26 other states.

According to a recent report by the Institute for the American Worker, 89,000 Virginia workers are unionized and currently protected if they change their minds by our state’s right-to-work law.  Those who have chosen not to join a union would be forced to pay union fees if the PRO Act passes. Those who are already members would lose the ability to choose to opt-out and stop paying union fees if they feel they are not getting good representation.

Another 2,971,327 Virginians could be forced to pay union fees if unions organize their workplace and the PRO Act kills right-to-work.  Continue reading

To the Left of Karl Marx

An article in the today’s Wall Street Journal, “Innovationville, USA,” writes approvingly of universal incomes, citing no-strings-attached pilot programs in Stockton, Calif., Peterson, N.J., and… (drum roll)… Richmond, Va. The Richmond Resilience Initiative provides $500 per month to 18 working families who don’t qualify for other aid but who, in Mayor Levar Stoney’s estimation, don’t make a living wage.

I’ll concede that $500 a month isn’t a lot of money. And I’ll credit backers of the Richmond program for acknowledging that handing out too much moolah would dampen the incentive to work. However, many people back a more expansive program. For instance, Andrew Yang, an unsuccessful candidate for president and now a contender for mayor of New York, proposed a “freedom dividend” consisting of $1,000 monthly for each American adult.

I suppose it’s OK to conduct social experiments to see what families do with the extra money. We might learn something useful. But the famous admonition of Karl Marx comes to mind: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Continue reading

Virginia Law Leaves Public Unions Unbound

by F. Vincent Vernuccio

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, where Vernuccio is Visiting Fellow. 

Twenty-eight years after Governor Doug Wilder signed it into law, the Virginia General Assembly lifted the ban on public sector collective bargaining. As of May 1, localities in Virginian could give government unions a monopoly to represent all employees at a particular worksite.

However, the law passed in Richmond is unique from other states as it sets virtually no guidelines on what government unions can bargain over and how they can be formed. Thankfully, it also does not mandate public sector collective bargaining, allowing localities to keep the status quo that the Commonwealth has had for decades.

First and foremost, it should be pointed out that localities can reject public sector collective bargaining. There is good reason to do so, as simply administering the process is expensive. In fact, localities that are considering allowing bargaining are estimating hundreds of thousands or even seven figures for ongoing costs for negotiations and compliance. This spending will not go for better wages or benefits for current public employees or better services for citizens —it is simply to hire more employees to administer the infrastructure of bargaining.

The costs alone could be a large reason that, while the state law allows public employees to petition their local elected officials to vote on allowing bargaining, those representatives will vote no and keep the process that has worked in the Commonwealth for generations. Continue reading

VA Employers Stuck in COVID Time Warp

By Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

Despite the stunning and rapid success of the vaccines in arresting the spread of COVID-19, if you enter a Virginia workplace you go back in time to the pre-vaccine era of doubt and fear.

Virginia acted in haste in adopting permanent workplace rules related to COVID 19. Now that the Centers for Disease Control has relaxed many of its requirements and conceded that others were not backed up by evidence, the state’s employers are in limbo. The workplace regulations are now badly out of step.

There was no allowance for vaccinations in the regulations, which became permanent in January just as the population was starting to get shots.

Governor Ralph Northam was warned this would happen if the temporary COVID-19 rules were made permanent but barreled ahead to the applause of organized labor. The regulations carry the weight of law and can be enforced with severe sanctions, whether or not they are in direct conflict with the latest CDC guidance. Continue reading

COVID-19 Killed the American Work Ethic

by Kerry Dougherty

Sometimes nothing will lift a kid’s mood like a McDonald’s Happy Meal.

On Tuesday I was running a raft of errands with a 5-year-old strapped into the back seat. As it crept past lunchtime and she was clearly starving, I saw the blessed Golden Arches.

While we idled in a long ribbon of cars at the Hilltop location we were entertained. The police were placing two suspects under arrest just inches from our windows.

What luck!

“What are they doing, Kerry?” asked my granddaughter,  transfixed by the drama.

“They’re making the bad guys put their hands on the truck so they can pat them down and make sure they don’t have guns.” Continue reading

Our Deranged Economic Policy

by James A. Bacon

Back during the Great Depression, critics of President Roosevelt’s economic policies equated them with paying unemployed workers to dig holes and fill them back up. As loony as that sounds, it’s better than what government does today. At least the idea of paying people to dig holes honored the age-old connection between work and reward. Now the government just hands out money willy nilly, no effort required.

I felt a full-scale rant coming on when I read this article in the Martinsville Bulletin his morning, which describes how businesses in Martinsville and Henry County in Southside Virginia cannot find find enough workers — this in a community which has long had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Will and Tammy Pearson, owners of two restaurants and a bowling alley, say they are so short-staffed that everyone who does have a job is working overtime. No one is responding to job advertisements. “With the unemployment and stimulus benefits,” says Will, “people don’t want to work.”

The Pearsons’ experience is common across the area. Continue reading

Some College Graduates Will Get Paid to Live in Southwest or Southside Virginia

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Tobacco Commission (Virginia Tobacco Region and Revitalization Commission) has come up with a program that does not involve pork-barrel grants.

Two of the problems afflicting the area served by the Commission, Southside and Southwest, are a shortage of people to fill certain jobs and a shortage of young adults putting down roots in the area. Its Talent Attraction Program is designed to address both problems. Under it, young graduates working in certain field can get up to $48,000 in student loans paid off.

The program is open to anyone graduating since 2019 with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Each participant must commit to living in the area for 24 months and working in one of the following areas:

  • Public School Teacher in Science, Math, Technology/Computer Science, or Career and Technical Education (Grades 6-12)
  • Public School Special Education Teacher (K-12)
  • Speech Language Pathologist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Industrial or Electrical Engineer
  • Information Security, Network, or Computer Systems Analyst

Continue reading