Local governments across Virginia are considering entering into collective bargaining agreements with their employees.
Back in the late 1970’s, leaders in Arlington County entered into collective bargaining agreements with employees of the county government and the school system. The Supreme Court of Virginia ended up striking down those agreements because local governments did not have the authority to make them.
Now, more than 40 years later, the General Assembly has given them that authority, and Arlington is about to start negotiating. David Broder with SEIU Virginia 512 says this is a turning point for labor.
“We believe it's time for every local government and school board to pass a meaningful collective bargaining ordinance making sure that frontline workers can bargain for better pay, benefits and working conditions,” Broder says.
Alexandria was the first local government to authorize collective bargaining negotiations under the new law, although city leaders there left discipline out of the agreement. Arlington, on the other hand, includes a way for an aggrieved employee to get a third-party mediator. Stephen Haner at the Thomas Jefferson Institute says the discipline part of these agreements is something to watch as more local governments take action.
"The union being able to protect the bad apple from discipline is not in the best interest of the public," Haner explains. "I think you will find that to be a pattern around Virginia. But we'll see."
Discussions are also underway in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, and labor organizers are hoping to eventually strike agreements for working conditions, pay and maybe even discipline across Virginia.