COVID-19 Pandemic Shedding New Light on Collective Bargaining Debate

Apr 7, 2020

Governor Ralph Northam is now considering a huge number of bills on his desk, even as he navigates the state’s response to coronavirus.

Employees of local governments and school systems across Virginia are prohibited from collective bargaining, although Governor Ralph Northam is now considering a bill that would overturn that prohibition. Now that the economy is in trouble, though, the Virginia Municipal League is asking him to delay that effort.

Chris Braunlich at the Thomas Jefferson Institute says now is not the time. 

“There’s going to be horrible unemployment, particularly among low-income people, part-timers and people in the gig economy, and we need to be passing things that are going to help get us out of it," he says. "And I don’t think the collective bargaining bill will do that.”

But now is the best time to take action, says Tyrone McCutchen. He’s a custodian at Alexandria City Public Schools.

“This is going to get down to crunch time eventually, and we all know when it gets down to crunch time it always starts from the bottom and work your way up," McCutchen says. "So I’d like to have it now so I could have something set in place to where it’s going to be fighting for me once that time comes.”

The governor has to take action this week, even as he navigates Virginia’s response to the pandemic.

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