Category Archives: Unions

Index Minimum Wage? Do the Tax Code, Too.

By Steve Haner

One bill that certainly is heading for Governor Glenn Youngkin’s desk is the increase in the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour as of two years from now. Both versions, House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1, raise it to $13.50 for next year, with the $15 level kicking in a year later. Both bills are now out of their first committees.

It was a campaign promise. The Democrats in both chambers coordinated to make it their first bill of the year on both sides. Smart marketing. Soon the Republican governor must decide whether it becomes his first veto, with Republican legislators then having to vote to sustain it or not. Continue reading

Local Government Unions Raise Your Taxes

By Chris Braunlich

Subscribers to Netflix will soon see rate increases because of the Screen Actors Guild-AFTRA Hollywood strikes.  Buyers of new and used cars will, as a result of the United Auto Workers strike, see prices go up as supply dwindles and costs rise.

The current spate of labor actions – involving more than 420,000 employees – is a response to higher inflation.  However, it will also drive prices even higher, both through lost productivity and higher costs to pay for higher wages. Continue reading

Another Race Institute at UVa

Kimberly J. Robinson, UVa Professor of Law. Official Photo

by James C. Sherlock

Fund it and they will come.

The Daily Progress reports that thanks to a $4.9 million gift from an anonymous philanthropist, a new “Institute” has been launched at UVa’s School of Law.

The new organization, the Education Rights Institute, plans to

“find ways to improve K-12 education and help educators address the obstacles that face disadvantaged students.”

Staff have been hired and the institute’s first projects are already in development. There will be a star-studded roll out on October 16th.

Excited?

Hold that thought while you read about the Institute’s leadership, goals and intentions. Continue reading

Countering the VEA… on a Shoestring Budget

The Internet ad displayed above, produced by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, reached 12,000 Virginia teachers. The return on the modest investment has been impressive. Says Co-President Chris Braunlich: “Inquiries about alternative educator associations are pouring in. Some have already cancelled their union membership (taking $700 in annual dues with them).”
JAB

The Subversive Power of Doughnuts

Clever Republicans have found a new tool for destroying our schools.

by Steve Haner

Let me get this straight. An elected member of the General Assembly comes to school buildings to give doughnuts to teachers in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week and the leftist Democrat agitators of the teachers’ union are “triggered”? They whine about her generosity to the gutless school management, which then caves to the weak-minded and bans any future acts of kindness?

In Virginia? Continue reading

Teachers’ Unions and Virginia Schools

Courtesy VEA

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia is a government union state.

Because of the federal workforce in Northern Virginia, Virginia in 2021 had the third highest percentage of any state of government union members as a share of total union members at 64%.

That is a higher percentage than Washington D.C.

Of all employees in Virginia, 22.5% worked for the government in 2021. Virginia is one of only seven states over 20%. D.C. is 29%.

The National Teachers’ Unions. Many Virginia teachers and support personnel belong to local teacher’s associations and unions that are affiliates of the two major national public school teacher’s unions, the National Education Association (NEA, 3 million members) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT, 1.7 million members).

Together they represent one in four union members in the U.S. The leadership of both are hard-core progressives.

Those national numbers of members are provided by the two unions and include retirees. In 2021 together they had about 3.6 million working members.

In the years 2019-21, the National Center for Education Statistics counted three million teachers in public schools and 500,000 in private schools. But the NEA and AFT represent large numbers of other school staff to account for the apparent discrepancy.

The two unions are overtly political and focused on social issues warfare.

In Virginia, the two national unions claim 45,000 members, which, since they both include large numbers of non-teacher staff, means together they represent significantly less than half of Virginia teachers. Continue reading

The Strike at the AdvanSix Chemical Plant in Hopewell – A Complex Story

AdvanSix Chemicals Plant Hopewell Virginia Courtesy AdvanSix

by James C. Sherlock

We don’t see very many industrial strikes in Virginia.

Regular readers know that I have often supported blue collar unions in the private economy.

My family roots are linked to Pennsylvania coal mines. Those miners’ strongest claims were for their own safety. Followed very closely by their demands for living wages.

I started researching the story of the current strike by unions representing some 340 workers at the AdvantSix chemical plant in Hopewell with a bias towards supporting the strike.

Safety. I still do support it to the degree that they are striking for worker and plant safety. They reasonably want the company to prevent excessive overtime of current employees under inherently dangerous conditions that require close attention to detail.

Hopewell employees tell stories of consecutive 18-hour shifts.

They want the company to hire more workers to solve that.

But that workforce is far more skilled — better educated and trained, and higher paid – than I assumed.

AdvanSix has been unable to readily fill the jobs that they already advertise. It is hard to attract skilled workers to Hopewell. The company may need to cut production instead.

Wages. I thought I would also support the union wage increase demands in excess of what the company has offered, but I have found that issue is complicated and the public does not have a clear picture of the differences. Continue reading

Assault and Battery in Schools – Virginia Law and School Division Policies Make “Marks” of Principals

by James C. Sherlock

This is addressed directly to Virginia public school principals.

You are compliant with current Virginia law whether you report assault and battery to police or do not.

Bad law makes for bad policy.

Depending upon your school division, your requirements may vary. A lot.

In gambling, and this issue is a big gamble for you, if you don’t know who the mark is, it is you.

The current law on reporting of assault and battery to police reflects a poorly conceived and poorly written attempt by Virginia Democrats in 2020 to break what they called the “school-to-prison pipeline.” They made reporting to police conditional upon on-scene medical and legal findings – by you.

The Board of Education has done nothing to improve the matter. School divisions are all over the spectrum on what to do about reporting. You cannot carry out either the law or many of the school division policies without personal jeopardy. Continue reading

What Do We Owe To and Expect from a Special Ed Teacher?

Abigail Zwerner
Courtesy AP

by James C. Sherlock

On February 16, USA Today published a story by Jeanine Santucci. That is the latest in an excellent series of reports on the shooting of Newport News first grade teacher Abigail Zwerner.

Her article, “Virginia 6-year-old who shot his teacher exposes flaws in how schools treat students with disabilities.” raises questions that Virginians need to answer.

  • What, exactly, do we expect of special education teachers and what do we owe them?
  • What training and resources must we provide?
  • How do we keep them safe?
  • How do we get enough people to accept the challenges and risks?

Any school official or teacher will tell you:

  • That the best-organized parents in K-12 education are special-ed parents;
  • That federal law is very prescriptive and provides little room for error on the part of the schools;
  • That schools’ (meaning taxpayers’) liability for error is open-ended; and
  • That special-ed continues to get more challenging, especially after COVID accelerated the number of emotionally disturbed children and adolescents.

Few school divisions will claim to have any of that under control.

 JLARC in 2020 concurred with that assessment in Virginia.

Longstanding shortage of special education teachers persists, and many school divisions rely on under-prepared teachers to fill gaps.

IEPs are not consistently designed effectively.

School divisions are not consistently preparing students with disabilities for life after high school.

Continue reading

Coal in Virginia

From Virginia Coal, An Abridged History.

by James C. Sherlock

When we talk of coal today, which is seldom, it is usually not treated well.

It is easy to forget (if some even know) that coal powered the industrial revolution, made America the richest nation in the world and fueled American war production that supported allied victories in both world wars in the 20th century.

Coal powered nearly everything starting in the early part of the 19th century. Power plants, trains, ships, and virtually anything else powered by steam used coal to boil the water.

The iron and then steel-making process depended then, and still does, on coking coal.

Coal — and the co-dependent railroads — played big roles in Virginia history.

I strongly recommend to you Virginia Coal, An Abridged History. It was published in 1990 by the Virginia Center for Coal & Energy Research at Virginia Tech.

Continue reading

RVA 5×5: Needed Resources for Human Resources

by Jon Baliles

Last week we had a story about a glut of open positions at Richmond’s City Hall and the difficulty in filling them. Lo and behold, the Richmond Free Press this week put out an article about the struggle to fill positions as the department responsible for filling those positions (Human Resources, aka HR) is upside down and employees are being told to reapply for their jobs. In case you didn’t read last week’s edition, the HR department has a lot of vacancies which makes it hard to fill any vacancy in any department. HR “is involved in every aspect of employee services, from hiring and retention to designing and administering classification, compensation and performance evaluations, overseeing employee data, handling employee grievances and providing training and development.”

Think of it like a clogged sink — it takes forever for the water to get through. And reporter Jeremy Lazarus notes that word has leaked out that everyone in the department was “told at a staff meeting in early February and urged to reapply for new positions that are being advertised, but that there were no guarantees they would have jobs. But three department employees have separately told the Free Press that effective Friday, all of the remaining full-time employees are to be laid off except for the three top managers….”

And one employee spoke directly but anonymously: “We’ve been told our department is the heartbeat of City Hall, but we’ve been left in the dark. None of us knows what will happen. Maybe we’ll all get rehired. Even so there will be fewer people left to do the work,” the employee said, as result of the transfers that have already taken place.

“I don’t know how everything we’re involved with will get done,” one of the employees said. “The city is fortunate. Instead of running for the exits, for the most part, everyone has stayed on and kept focused on the work. But it becomes so stressful when the reward for loyalty is uncertainty and worry. This is not what we signed up for.”
Continue reading

Preparing for the Costs to Government of Virginia’s Generation COVID

John Littel, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources

by James C. Sherlock

To justify her insistence on keeping schools closed, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in February of 2021, “kids are resilient and kids will recover.”

She brought that same message to Virginia.

In one of the strangest choices in Virginia political history, Terry McAuliffe brought Weingarten to Virginia to campaign with him on the last weekend of his losing gubernatorial campaign.

Thus sealing his defeat.

It turns out, as it was always going to, that you can’t keep kids out of school for up to a year and a quarter, homebound, and expect all of them to “recover.”

I will call here those in K-12 during COVID school shutdowns Generation COVID (Gen C).

I wrote the other day of an estimate by a renowned educational economist that the 1.2 million Gen C kids in Virginia public schools would lose several hundred billion dollars in lifetime earnings because of un-repaired damages to their learning of all types.

His critics here argued into the night about study methodology, but none denied costs at some level would be there. They did not offer their own estimates.

John Littel, Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources, has the job of preparing his agencies for the lifetime social costs of those children. Continue reading

Projected $312 Billion Cost of Lost Earnings of Virginia K-12 Students due to Pandemic School Closures

Courtesy Eric Hanushek

by James C. Sherlock

Over $312 billion in present value.

That is the estimate published by Stanford’s Eric A. Hanushek of expected economic losses attributable to Virginia’s pandemic school closures.

Virginia students in the COVID cohort can expect on average 5.5 percent lower lifetime earnings.

History indicates that the economic losses will be permanent unless the schools get better. Just returning schools to their pre-pandemic performance levels will not erase the lost learning.

Recovering from the pandemic requires swift and decisive improvements to the schools.

That number is an estimate, but a scientific one. Dr. Hanushek has better credentials with which to make that estimate than perhaps any other economist in the world.

For perspective, the $312 billion present value of projected losses to the Virginia economy due to COVID school shutdowns represents about seven years of state revenue realized from Virginia sources in the 2021 and 2022 biennium.

Even the money pales by comparison to the developmental and emotional damage done to the children.

But feel better.

His estimate of similar losses to California exceeds $1.2 trillion. Continue reading

Virginia’s Northam Learning Gap

by L. Scott Ligamfelter

It should surprise no one. After the ill-conceived March 2020 closing of Virginia’s public schools by former Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam, it should have been evident that children would suffer academically.

We now know the extent of that damage to fourth and eighth grade students. Virginia’s Secretary of Education, Aimee Rogstad Guidera, put it aptly. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results, she said, offer a “clear and heart-wrenching” statement on the “catastrophic decline” and a “predictable outcome of the decade-long systemic dismantling of a foundational commitment to excellence in education.” It didn’t have to be. What followed was a complete failure in virtual education. In the process, children fell victim to the self-absorbed politics of teachers’ unions and a complete disregard of the medical evidence from European countries that school-aged children were not at increased threat to contract COVID-19.

Moreover, the teachers’ unions saw the COVID-19 closing as an opportunity to keep schools shuttered while they lobbied for more pay and fatter school budgets once the pandemic crisis passed. A cynical assessment? Yes. But even when high schoolers in my county of Prince William returned to classrooms in 2021, teachers remained out, preferring to instruct kids virtually even as their students sat in segmented classroom space watching their teacher on a computer screen. It was farcical, and Virginia’s parents knew it.

Enter Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, who correctly characterized parental outrage in Virginia, not only for the elongated closure of public schools, but also for the “woke pandemic” spread by liberal school boards bent on indoctrinating children to be social justice warriors. Of almost no concern to these latter-day commissars was the performance of our kids and grandkids in reading, math, genuine history, and critical thinking skills. Mr. Youngkin listened to parents. In turn, they elected Mr. Youngkin because he pledged to realign educational priorities to those of parents, not woke administrators.

The governor is rightly indignant over the recent NAEP results and has committed to ensuring that Virginia children “have the tools and support structure to get back on track.” Tutors, particularly in math and reading, are needed for our fourth graders. Reading scores for this segment were dismal, tumbling from seventh to 33rd place among all states. In math, fourth grade students barely reached the national average.

Continue reading

School Discipline Issues Meet Unshakeable Progressive Dogma

by James C. Sherlock

Moral panic has been defined as a:

…widespread feeling of fear, often an irrational one, that some evil person or thing threatens the values, interests, or well-being of a community or society.

Virginia’s progressive community is in moral panic over the refusal of school discipline outcomes to bend to their prescriptions for “equity.” Scientific surveys conducted by the state show teachers are scared of their students. In Virginia Beach.

To see that panic in action, read the comments on my article, “Why are Teachers Quitting? In Virginia Beach, It May Not Be “Mean Parents.”

Combative progressive comments offer a clinic on the subject.

Let’s look deeper to see sources of the progressive concerns. Continue reading