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Should Local Government Employees Get Collective Bargaining Rights?

MBandman / Flickr, Creative Commons: flickr.com/photos/mbandman/23033039562

Employees of local governments may be on the verge of engaging in collective bargaining.

By this time next year, employees of your local government may be engaged in collective bargaining to get better pay. Bills to allow that have now passed the House and Senate, although there are key differences between them.

Delegate Elizabeth Guzman is a Democrat from Woodbridge, and her bill allows state workers to engage in collective bargaining. Her version also allows workers to decide if they want to unionize rather than the government employer.

“My bill will empower workers like teachers, firefighters, social workers, police officers to have a seat at the table during the decision-making process,” Guzman says.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw has the bill on the Senate side, and his version does not allow collective bargaining for state employees.

Reporter Michael Pope asks, “What’s wrong with state workers doing collective bargaining?

“Nothing. That’s just not my bill," Saslaw responds.

Pope asks, “Do you have a case against it?

“Yeah," Saslaw responds. "We don’t have the votes. There’s nothing more to say. We don’t have the votes.”

The bill is headed for a closed-door conference committee, where a deal will be crafted in secret. Guzman says she’ll use the conference committee to fight for state and local government employees. But if Saslaw is right about the votes in the Senate, though, she might not have much room to negotiate.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.