Virginia State Senate approves legislation allowing local governments to bargain collectively with unions

On Feb. 11, the Virginia State Senate approved SB939, legislation that would allow, but not require, counties, cities, and towns to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.

What specifically does the bill propose? SB939 would make the following changes to the state’s public-sector labor laws (existing law is rendered in standard text; changes are italicized):

No state, county, municipal city, town, or like governmental officer, agent, or governing body is vested with or possesses any authority to recognize any labor union or other employee association as a bargaining agent of any public officers or employees, or to collectively bargain or enter into any collective bargaining contract with any such union or association or its agents with respect to any matter relating to them or their employment or service unless, in the case of a county, city, or town, such authority is provided for or permitted by a local ordinance. As used in this section, “county, city, or town” includes any local school board, and “public officers or employees” includes employees of a local school board.

The bill would not compel union membership, and it would retain an existing ban on strikes.

How did the Senate vote, and what comes next? The Senate voted 21-19 to approve SB939. All Democrats voted in favor of the bill. All Republicans voted against it.

The bill now goes to the Virginia House of Delegates, where Democrats hold a 55-45 majority. If the House approves the bill, it will then go to Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for his action.

What are the reactions?

  • Sen. Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D), the bill’s sponsor, said, “When I got elected in ’76, [localities bargaining with unions] was permitted, and what happened, I think, in the very first year, the Virginia Supreme Court said that without legislation from the General Assembly, they could not do this, and essentially that’s where it’s been until 2020.”
  • Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, opposed the bill, saying, “The simple fact is under union monopoly bargaining, workers are forced to accept union representation, whether or not they want that representation in the first place. Just as Saslaw denied public input on the bill in favor of union boss rhetoric, monopoly bargaining denies public servants the right to choose their own representation and forces them to accept one-size-fits-all union boss representation.”

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 82 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 14, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart February 14, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart February 14, 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.

  • Florida H0001: This bill would require employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. It would require unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. It would also require a signed annual authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary.
    • House State Affairs Committee approved Feb. 13.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Kansas HB2586: This bill would permit public employees to rescind dues deduction authorizations at any time.
    • House Commerce, Labor, and Economic Development Committee hearing Feb. 12.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • Kansas SB361: This bill would permit public employees to rescind dues deduction authorizations at any time.
    • Senate Commerce Committee hearing Feb. 12.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • Maine LD900: This bill authorizes certain classes of public-sector employees to strike.
    • Labor and Housing Committee hearing Feb. 12.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • 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 approved Feb. 10.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship.
  • New Hampshire HB1322: This bill would prohibit university system funds from being used to oppose the formation of unions.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee approved Feb. 12.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • New Hampshire HB1399: This bill would allow a bargaining unit to request certification of its union/representative.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee approved Feb. 10.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • New Hampshire HB1554: This bill would provide for changes to public employee voting in certification elections.
    • House Labor, Industrial, and Rehabilitative Services Committee reported inexpedient to legislate Feb. 12.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • New Mexico SB110: This bill would make various amendments to the state’s public-sector labor relations laws.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Feb. 14.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • Senate approved Feb. 11.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington SB6224: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Referred to Rules Committee Feb. 11.
    • Democratic sponsorship.



About the author

Jerrick Adams

Jerrick Adams is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

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