Category Archives: Labor & workforce

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.

On July 16 the Arlington County Board of Supervisors gave government unions the ability to have a monopoly on representing public employees by passing an ordinance allowing for collective bargaining. Similarly, Loudoun County on July 20 voted to have county staff draft an ordinance doing the same thing.

Staff and elected officials admitted they are working closely with unions. Arlington’s model ordinance discussion draft stated “the county manager, the county attorney and senior staff have continued to meet with representatives of employee associations to resolve as many issues as possible.” 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

The Day-Late-and-a-Dollar-Short Administration

Image pulled from the VEC website.

by James A. Bacon

So much dysfunction…. at so many levels.

The federal government has been throwing trillions of dollars into COVID-19 relief. Many billions have flowed into Virginia. Despite this unprecedented peace-time spending, thousands of Virginians are being evicted from their homes, and thousands more are lining up at food pantries and soup kitchens. Why? Because government agencies can’t get the relief money to them in a timely fashion.

Look, I understand. Times of crisis require time to adapt, whether you’re a government agency or a private company. There’s no magic wand to wave to make massive economic dislocations painlessly disappear. But we can legitimately compare the performance of Virginia to other states. And by the basic criteria of handing out unemployment insurance payments to people who have lost their jobs, the Commonwealth appears to be doing a colossally poor job.

“Virginia continues to rank last in the country in key performance metrics tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor,” reports The Virginia Mercury. “The federal data shows the situation has only gotten worse as the pandemic continued, even as businesses have begun reopening and new claims have dropped.” Continue reading

Kings Dominion Stays a Step Ahead of the Minimum Wage

Bridgett Bywater, the new GM at Kings Dominion.

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s $9.50-per-hour minimum wage will go into effect May 1, but it won’t have much impact on King’s Dominion, which expects to hire more than 2,000 seasonal workers, mostly young people, this season. The Hanover County amusement park plans to boost its minimum wage to $13 per hour, reports Virginia Business. The enterprise also is hiring 80 new full-time positions with wages and benefits starting at $16 an hour in culinary and operations roles.

Hopefully, the flap over the minimum wage in Virginia will prove to be much ado about nothing, as market forces in a fast-recovering economy push up wages faster than the General Assembly can jack up the minimum. In 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70,000 of Virginia’s 1,978,000 workers were paid the $7.50 minimum wage. Presumably, a significant number more were paid less than $9.50 and will benefit from the wage increase. That’s the up-side of the mandated wage boost.

What we don’t know is how many workers will lose their jobs as employers decide they don’t add enough value to the enterprise to justify the higher wage, or, in the longer run, invest in automation. Bacon’s Rebellion will stay alert for signs of how the minimum is impacting “marginalized” employees, such as minorities, teenagers, and rural workers. Continue reading

COPN Monopolies Depress Income for Virginia Healthcare Professionals Without Lowering Costs

The Business of Healthcare

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia is among the richest states in the country.  

We are ranked ninth among states with the highest median household income in the 2019 (latest) Census Bureau American Community Survey. Virginia median household income was $74,222 and the U.S. as a whole was $62,843.

But Virginia has a Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law among the most stifling of competition in the nation. The law itself and the regional monopolies created combine to suppress both opportunity and income for healthcare professionals.  

The monopolies don’t just control the healthcare delivery market, they also control the labor market.  

This essay will illustrate the effects of COPN and COPN-generated monopolies in depressing wages, and thus on the willingness of medical professionals to practice here. And then show you those lower wages don’t save consumers a dime. Continue reading

Selling Virginia Pot? Expect A Union Label

by Steve Haner

When Virginians begin to buy marijuana from state-licensed providers, if Governor Ralph Northam has his way, along with his smiling visage on every baggie of grass you may also find a union label.

I’m kidding about getting high with the governor’s image on the package but using the legalization bill to promote union political goals through a back door is no joke. Future state marijuana licensees may be in danger of losing their ability to sell pot if they fail to live up to various union-driven labor law requirements, set out below.  Continue reading

Democrats Expand Worker Protections

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Many commenters on this blog seem to view Virginia Democrats as elitists (the “Plantation Elite”) who either ignore or look down on the needs of most Virginians or elitists who are absorbed in advancing critical race theory and other woke ideas. While battles against these perceived threats have been raging on Bacon’s Rebellion, Democrats in the General Assembly have passed, over stiff Republican opposition, a raft of legislation during the past two sessions that benefit ordinary working stiffs.

Some of this legislation has been high profile and has drawn fire on these pages, but most have gone largely unnoticed here and in the press. The best-known bills are those that increase the minimum wage and that authorize localities to engage in collective bargaining with their employees. These have been debated extensively on BR and I have no interest in resuming those debates here. (For the record, I support the minimum wage increase, but have strong reservations about public employee collective bargaining.) Continue reading

May Day Brings Virginia’s Labor Revolution

“Liberty Leading the People,” Eugene Delacroix.

by Steve Haner

Four major changes in Virginia’s labor laws delayed at the beginning of the COVID-19 recession will all take effect May 1. All were approved by the 2020 General Assembly once Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and then delayed at the 2020 Veto Session. May Day 2021 is almost here.

Minimum Wage. The 31% increase in the state’s minimum wage, from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour, will have the broadest impact. House Bill 395 and Senate Bill 7 also raised the hourly minimum wage to $11 eight months later, on January 1, 2022, and to $12 a year later on January 1, 2023.  Continue reading