Category Archives: Labor & workforce

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

Headline – The Richmond Times-Dispatch Needs Help

Courtesy HaHa Humor

by James C. Sherlock

Finally some good news about the dumpster fire that has been the Virginia Unemployment Commission (VEC). Governor Glenn Youngkin has reported definitive progress — real numbers in reductions of backlogs.

Here is the full Richmond Times Dispatch (RTD) headline on the story reporting those improvements.

Youngkin claims progress in reducing backlog in unemployment claims; advocates are skeptical.

Not “reports,” but “claims” progress. And “advocates” are skeptical.

Regional newspaper cutbacks have been brutal. In the case of the RTD, I will assume the paper has a live person writing the consistently anti-Youngkin headlines despite the facts of the stories. In this case, the reductions did not go far enough.

Three pieces of good news for the RTD:

  • There are plenty of good journalists looking for work;
  • The VEC can process the incumbent headline writer’s unemployment claim better than before; and,
  • As a budget cutting opportunity, there is headline-generating software available. Some of it is free.

Continue reading

End the Subminimum Wage for Disabled Virginians

Virginia is top ranked as a business-friendly state. How we treat employees with disabilities in the workplace matters.

by Shaun Kenney

What are the hallmarks of a business-friendly environment? Competitive wages, opportunities to build wealth, support for entrepreneurial endeavors, freedom to create and innovate, dignity of work, and economic independence and sustainability – to name a few.

There’s a law on the books in Virginia that legislators and advocates on both sides of the aisle argue stands in direct contrast to many of these principles. It goes back to 1938.

According to Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers with a 14(c) certificate from the Wage & Hour Division of the Department of Labor are legally permitted to pay wages below the minimum wage to employees with physical, developmental, cognitive, mental or age-related disabilities. Continue reading

Help Wanted

Photo Credit: Daily Press

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

I had heard about the problem with restaurant staffing, but had not experienced it. During the pandemic, my wife and I have relied on two local Italian restaurants for both takeout and eating out. Both restaurants reopened as soon as they could, and both retained the same staff they have had for several years.

While running errands today, I decided to get some lunch at a restaurant that I had gone to in past years, but not recently. It is a small, locally-owned Mexican restaurant that was open in Northside when we moved here over thirty years ago. It was closed. A sign on the door said that it would be closed “today” because of staff shortages. The sign looked as if it had been in place for some time.

Next was a somewhat trendy barbecue place (it advertises that it was named 4th Best Barbecue restaurant in the nation). A man at the front entrance informed me that only take-out or pickup was available. The dining room was closed due to staff shortages.

Going down the street a bit, I came upon a locally-owned, long-established Greek-Italian place whose gyro I really like. Place dark; door locked; no sign on the door.

I finally found some lunch at a Mexican restaurant that is a franchise. I like its chile verde, but I decided to try something different.  Its burrito was mediocre, at best. Continue reading

Youngkin Expounds on His Expansive Economic-Development Vision

Glenn Youngkin. Photo credit: Virginia Business

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s economy has grown at a sluggish 0.9% compounded annual rate of growth over the past eight years, says Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin, and he wants to get it “really cranked up” to a normalized rate of 2.5%. To accomplish that goal, he tells Virginia Business magazine, he proposes to do three things: (1) cut taxes, (2) bring down the cost of living, and (3) cut regulations.

In practical terms, that includes not shutting down the economy with COVID-19 lockdowns and shutdowns. It means keeping schools open. And it means no vaccine mandates.

Says Youngkin: “Executive orders that mandate that state employees have to get a vaccine and wear a mask, or an executive order that makes children [in] K-12 have to wear a mask — we’ll work with [the new commissioner of health and new Board of Health] to rescind that.”

While Youngkin says he wants to provide tax relief to Virginians, he does not sound like a small-government conservative. Citing the link between K-12 education and workforce development, he touts his plans for “the largest education budget in the history of Virginia” — more money for teacher salaries, for school facilities, and funding of special education programs. The governor-elect also wants to expand mental health programs, high-speed internet access across Virginia, and spending on law enforcement. Continue reading

BBB Demise Is Also Labor-Rules Reprieve

Washington Post photo of a cake delivered to Virginia Senator Mark Warner in May, encouraging support for the pending PRO Act. Elements of the PRO Act are also included in the BBB omnibus.

by F. Vincent Vernuccio

Yesterday, Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV, gave an early Christmas present to Senators Mark Warner, D-VA, and Tim Kaine, D-VA, by declaring he would not support the $2.2 trillion Build Back Better Act (BBB).

Virginia small businesses, job creators, and workers were wary of what the U.S. House passed in BBB, specifically some provisions mirroring parts of another disastrous piece of legislation called the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.

However, it was not just those who would be affected who need to worry. Virginia politicians may have also had worries of the electoral consequences of voting for these bills.

If you are a small mom and pop business with only a few employees but no labor attorney on retainer, you better get one if the Senate votes for the PRO Act or if the Biden Administration continues to push the provisions in future “must pass” legislation. Continue reading

Now EMT Workers Are in Short Supply

Image credit: News & Advance

by James A. Bacon

Bedford County, an 800-square-mile county in Central Virginia, is theoretically staffed to operate six medic units. Based on call volume, the county could justify maintaining eight units, reports the News & Advance. But on most days one or two of the six are out of service because of insufficient staff to fill them. One day recently, the county had only one paramedic on duty.

The result: longer response times. Delays are potentially a matter of life and death.

The likely root causes of EMT shortages are overwork and insufficient pay, although COVID-related disruptions to training programs have also been a factor in the past year. It is not uncommon for emergency services personnel to work more than 100 hours of overtime a month, sometimes in 72-hour shifts. EMT Jason Morgan says he has not seen a merit increase or cost of living increase since 2004 or 2005. Nationally, shortages are most acute among paramedics, who require more years of education and training.

The chronic teacher shortages in Virginia have gotten considerable media attention, as has the shortage of police officers. It should surprise no one that emergency service personnel are in short supply as well. Continue reading

A Sociological Mystery: Why Are Black Women Dropping Out of the Workforce?

by James A. Bacon

Ever-alert to unexplained sociological phenomena, Bacon’s Rebellion has taken note of a just-published Brookings Institution article based on the November 2021 jobs report. Unemployment is declining for most major demographic groups — Whites, Asians and Hispanics, both men and women, and even for Black men. But the unemployment rate increased in November for Black teens and, most alarmingly in the minds of the Brookings authors, for Black women.

“Between October and November, the labor force participation rate for Black women dropped to 60.3%, effectively erasing the impressive gains reported in August,” reports Brookings. “This reversal in labor force participation is unique to Black women, as women in other racial-ethnic groups continued to regain their footing in the workforce.”

Don’t dismiss the possibility that we’re looking at an anomalous one-month blip that signifies nothing in the long run. But for purposes of discussion, let’s accept Brookings’ premise that there is reason to be worried. How do we explain Black women (and not Black men) dropping out of the workforce? Continue reading

Workplace Heat Rule Given Cold Shoulder

by Steve Haner

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

Virginia’s Safety and Health Codes Board on Friday voted down a proposed workplace heat protection standard, strongly opposed by the state’s business community but ardently sought by organized labor and farmworker advocates.

The Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) was seeking to push the proposed rules out for a final round of public comments. Abiding by the standard schedule for regulatory adoption would have meant final approval rested with incoming Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin. Perhaps the December 3 vote was an early sign that attitudes toward the regulatory state are expected to change.

As is always the case with these proposals, a massive amount of staff work had been put into preparing the draft standard, including several industry and labor stakeholder groups meeting throughout 2021. According to public comments made before Friday’s vote, those stakeholder groups had divided along similar lines.

The briefing document for Friday’s meeting exceeds 350 pages, with the actual proposed standard covering pages 177 to 199. The first round of public comments is also reproduced in the document or can be found here. The early, written comments were heavily favorable to the rules, but the oral testimony Friday was dominated by opponents. Continue reading