Last year, the General Assembly passed a new law that allows employees of local governments to engage in collective bargaining.
The city of Alexandria is the first local government in Virginia to have local municipal employees engaged in collective bargaining, and the agreement there could serve as a template for other local governments. It allows for collective bargaining for working conditions but not for discipline.
Steven Haner at the Thomas Jefferson Institute says that’s a responsible approach.
"What you've seen in some of these places with discipline issues involving police and teachers have made the point that sometimes the union protection is not in the best interest of the public," he explains. "The union being able to protect the bad apple from discipline is not in the best interest of the public."
So is that a model that other local governments will follow?
"It should not be the template for other localities," believes David Broder with SEIU Virginia 512. He says the Alexandria model has some problems.
"It limits the number of employees covered by the ordinance. It needs stronger protections for having a fair, safe union election by mail," Broder says. "It restricts how workers talk to each other during a union election, and it limits the scope of bargaining.”
He says firefighters, nurses and librarians should be able to negotiate over a fair and transparent discipline system. Labor leaders are currently in deep negotiations over how collective bargaining will work in Loudoun County and Fairfax County.