Virginia House of Delegates approves bill establishing collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers

On Feb. 6, the Virginia House of Delegates approved HB582, a bill establishing collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers at both the state and local levels. Nationwide, three states – Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina – currently prohibit collective bargaining on the part of public-sector workers.

What specifically does the bill propose? HB582 would make the following changes to the state’s public-sector labor laws:

  • Repeals the current prohibition against collective bargaining by public-sector workers.
  • Establishes the Public Employee Relations Board to designate bargaining units and provide for certification and decertification elections for unions.
  • Requires employers and unions certified as exclusive bargaining representatives “to meet at reasonable times to negotiate in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.”
  • Repeals a 2013 law stipulating that, in certification and decertification elections, “the right of an individual employee to vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right that shall be guaranteed from infringement.”

How did the House vote, and what comes next? The House voted 54-45 to approve HB582, with one member not voting. All but one Democrat, Del. Dawn Adams, voted in favor of the bill. All Republicans voted against it.

The bill now goes to the Virginia State Senate, where Democrats hold a 21-19 majority. If the Senate approves the bill, it will then go to Governor Ralph Northam (D) for his action.

What are the reactions?

  • Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D), the bill’s chief sponsor, said, “Workers in every locality in every corner of the commonwealth should have the freedom to collectively bargain. As one of only three states to ban public sector collective bargaining, Virginia is far behind the curve of history. It’s past time to give our teachers, firefighters, and other public service workers a voice so that they can advocate for the communities they serve.”
  • Jim Livingston, president of the Virginia Education Association (an affiliate of the National Education Association), said, “Students benefit when teachers and other school professionals have a voice to advocate for students and public schools. In other states with collective bargaining, educators and school districts have negotiated agreements that lowered class sizes, provided for extra resources for students, and addressed school health and safety issues. Collective bargaining is good for students, good for educators, good for schools, and good for Virginia communities.”
  • Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, opposed the bill, saying, “Under such a monopoly bargaining regime, individual workers are prohibited from even discussing basic workplace issues with their employer without triggering an unfair labor practice claim. And if that weren’t already bad enough, the bill would give union agents free reign to impose forced representation on workers through the coercive and abuse-prone ‘card check’ process where union organizers can bully or mislead workers into signing cards that are then used as ‘votes’ for unionization.”
  • Jacob Huebert, an attorney for the plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME, said provisions of the bill would conflict with Janus: “The bill would give unions the exclusive responsibility to receive and maintain authorizations for union dues deductions from employees’ paychecks as well as employees’ requests to cancel or change their dues authorizations. … That is insufficient to comply with Janus’s affirmative consent requirement.”

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 79 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map February 7, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart February 7, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart February 7, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Kansas SB361: This bill would permit public employees to rescind dues deduction authorizations at any time.
    • Introduced Feb. 4 and referred to Senate Commerce Committee Feb. 6.
    • Sponsored by Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee.
  • Maine LD900: This bill authorizes certain classes of public-sector employees to strike.
    • Hearing scheduled Feb. 5.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Maryland HB163: This bill would prohibit employers from requiring employees to join, remain members of, or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.
    • Hearing scheduled Feb. 4.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • Maryland SB658: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to graduate assistants in the University of Maryland system, Morgan State University, and St. Mary’s College.
    • Introduced Feb. 3 and referred to Senate Finance Committee Feb. 4.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Missouri HB2341: This bill would require public employees to provide annual written or electronic authorization for payroll deductions of union dues.
    • Second reading Feb. 3.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • New Hampshire HB1290: This bill would require the state public employee labor relations board to permit employees to vote by mail in certification elections.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee executive sessions scheduled Feb. 5.
    • Bipartisan sponsors.
  • New Hampshire HB1399: This bill would allow a bargaining unit to request certification of its union/representative.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee executive sessions scheduled Feb. 5.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • New Hampshire HB1554: This bill would provide for changes to public employee voting in certification elections.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee executive sessions scheduled Feb. 5.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • New Jersey S1202: This bill would require public employers to grant either unpaid or paid leave to employees who are elected or appointed as union officers.
    • Introduced and referred to Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism, and Historic Preservation Committee Feb. 3.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • New Mexico SB110: This bill would make various amendments to the state’s public-sector labor relations laws.
    • Reported favorably by Senate Public Affairs Committee Feb. 3.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Oklahoma SB1480: This bill would authorize school employees to negotiate independently with their employers.
    • Introduced Feb. 3.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • Oklahoma SB1716: This bill would require elections to certify school employee unions.
    • Introduced Feb. 3.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • Oklahoma SB1724: This bill would require written authorization for school employees to deduct union dues and political contributions from their paychecks.
    • Introduced Feb. 3.
    • Republican sponsors.
  • Virginia HB582: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • House approved Feb. 6.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Virginia SB1022: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • Senate Commerce and Labor Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 3.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 6.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Referred to House Rules Committee Feb. 4.
    • Democratic sponsors.
  • Washington SB6224: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 3.
    • Democratic sponsors.



About the author

Jerrick Adams

Jerrick Adams is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at jerrick.adams@ballotpedia.org

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