Category Archives: Public employee unions

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

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

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

Lawmaker Introduces Bills Protecting Workplace Freedom

Translation: pay us for our work for the union.

by F. Vincent Vernuccio

As a handful of localities push to give government unions a monopoly over public employee contracts, lawmakers in Richmond are looking to protect public employees around the state.

Delegate Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, has introduced a suite of bills to help protect the rights of public employees, promote union democracy and protect taxpayers.

The three bills would 1) ensure that public employees are informed of their rights to choose not to join and pay a union and allow them to leave the union at any time, 2) allow public employees the opportunity to vote to keep or remove the union at their workplace, and 3) prevent taxpayers from having to pay for union work.

The legislation is in response to troubling provisions that have emerged in some county and school district ordinances that are harmful to public employees and taxpayers. Last May, a new law went into effect that allowed localities to pass ordinances giving government unions a monopoly on contracts for public employees.

Here are more specifics on the three bills: 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

Local Collective Bargaining Off to Slow Start

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Although the alarm bells have sounded repeatedly on this blog, there has not been a rush to establish public employee bargaining in Virginia. Today, about a year and a half after the General Assembly enacted the authorizing law, and six months after it went into effect, only three jurisdictions have enacted ordinances authorizing collective bargaining, with another jurisdiction, Loudoun County, scheduled to vote on an ordinance on November 10, which seems likely to pass. In contrast, at least three jurisdictions have officially said “no” to collective bargaining.

Furthermore, none of the four collective bargaining ordinances, either adopted or pending to date, include teachers. School boards oversee the schools and will be the ones to consider collective bargaining by their employees, including teachers. So far, no local group of teachers has been authorized to engage in collective bargaining, nor has any group officially requested to do so.

The localities are all in Northern Virginia. In addition to the pending vote in Loudoun, the city of Alexandria and the counties of Fairfax and Arlington have approved a collective bargaining ordinance. One city, Portsmouth, went as far as to have an ordinance drafted by staff, but then backed away when it came to adopting it. Continue reading

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

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

Media in COVID Feeding Frenzy

by Kerry Dougherty

Many years ago, Virginia’s most prominent political scientist, Larry Sabato, wrote a book called “Feeding Frenzy.” If memory serves — and it’s been years since I read it — the University of Virginia professor analyzed how the media mob swam from scandal to scandal, feeding on wounded politicians like a school of sharks.

We see a version of that mindless frenzied behavior now in the media’s coverage of COVID-19.

In fact, the Delta variant is serving as chum in the water for these purveyors of panic.

Take, for instance, a story in yesterday’s New York Times that was immediately picked up by news outlets all over the country.

Get a load of the headline: “31 Children Test Positive For Coronavirus At Summer Camp.” 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

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

Alexandria Stands with Government Unions, Not Workers

by F. Vincent Vernuccio

In mid-April, the City of Alexandria passed an ordinance allowing government unions to bargain with the city. Unfortunately, many of the ordinance’s provisions are lopsided: they grant special advantages for government unions to easily organize public employees and trap workers into paying dues.

Alexandria’s lopsided ordinance. Alexandria’s ordinance makes it is easy for a union to petition for an election, which the ordinance says may happen in several ways, “including, without limitation, electronic authorizations and voice authorizations.” Once there is a determination by a labor relations administrator or the city manager that a majority of employees have given authorization, no one can challenge the petition.

In a sense, if a union were to use ambiguous language to trick an employee over the phone, and that employee were to respond with “yes,” the union may show that the employee wants the union to represent them – even though that may not really be the case if the employee is not informed of both their rights and of all the facts. Once the LRA makes a determination, the employee would have no recourse to say that verbal “yes” was not what they meant, or to rescind their indication of approval. Continue reading