Bills advance in Virginia to provide collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers

This week, committees in both the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia State Senate advanced legislation that would, if enacted, extend collective bargaining rights to public-sector workers.

HB582: HB582 originated in the House, which approved the bill on Feb. 6 by a vote of 54-45 with one member not voting. All but one Democrat, Del. Dawn Adams, voted in favor of the bill. All Republicans voted against it. As approved by the House, 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.”

HB582 was transmitted to the Senate on Feb. 7 and referred to its Commerce and Labor Committee. On Feb. 24, the committee voted 12-3 to advance a substitute version of the bill. The substitute is similar in substance to SB939 and provides that local governments may, by local ordinance, permit collective bargaining for public-sector workers. The House-adopted version, by contrast, would allow unions to exercise exclusive representation rights on a statewide basis without the approval of local governments. The Senate substitute was re-referred to the Finance and Appropriations Committee on Feb. 24.

SB939: SB939 originated in the Senate, which approved the bill on Feb. 11 by a vote of 21-19. All Democrats voted in favor of the bill, and all Republicans voted against it. As approved by the Senate, SB939 would make the following changes to the state’s public-sector labor laws (existing law is 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.

SB939 was transmitted to the House on Feb. 18 and referred to its Labor and Commerce Committee. On Feb. 25, the committee voted 13-9 to advance a substitute version of the bill. The substitute is similar in substance to HB582.

What are the reactions?

  • HB582 (as originally adopted by the House; not the Senate substitute):
    • 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.”
    • 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.”
  • SB939 (as originally adopted by the Senate; not the House substitute):
    • 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.”
    • Mix also 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 comes next? In order for either of the bills to become law, both the House and Senate must vote to approve the same version. A conference committee, comprising members of both chambers, may be appointed to reconcile differences between versions. If the House and Senate approve either bill, it will go to Governor Ralph Northam (D) for his action.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 90 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 28, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart February 28, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart February 28, 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.

  • California AB2307: This bill would require public-sector employers to provide union representatives paid release time to conduct certain union activities.
    • Referred to Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee Feb. 24.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Colorado HB1169: This bill would bar employers from requiring union membership or payment of union dues as a condition of employment.
    • Postponed indefinitely Feb. 25 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Connecticut HB05270: This bill would grant union representatives access to new employee orientations and employee personal/contact information. It would also authorize payroll deductions for dues, vesting unions with the authority to maintain authorization records.
    • Joint Labor and Public Employees Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 25.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Connecticut SB00228: This bill would grant union representatives access to new employee orientations and employee personal/contact information. It would also authorize payroll deductions for dues, vesting unions with the authority to maintain authorization records.
    • Joint Labor and Public Employees Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 25.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Kansas HB2586: This bill would permit public employees to rescind dues deduction authorizations at any time.
    • Advanced by House Commerce, Labor, and Economic Development Committee Feb. 25; referred to House Appropriations Committee Feb. 26 .
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • Kansas SB361: This bill would permit public employees to rescind dues deduction authorizations at any time.
    • Advanced by Senate Commerce Committee Feb. 25.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • 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.
    • Failed in House Economic Matters Committee Feb. 25 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Maryland HB775: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to certain faculty at Baltimore City Community College.
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled Feb. 25 canceled.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Oklahoma SB1716: This bill would require elections to certify school employee unions.
    • Failed in Senate Education Committee Feb. 25 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Oklahoma SB1724: This bill would require written authorization for school employees to deduct union dues and political contributions from their paychecks.
    • Failed in Senate Education Committee Feb. 25 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Virginia HB582: This bill would repeal the existing prohibition against collective bargaining by public employees.
    • Substitute advanced by Senate Commerce and Labor Committee and re-referred to Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee Feb. 24.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • Substitute advanced by House Labor and Commerce Committee Feb. 25.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Senate Ways and Means Committee executive session scheduled Feb. 28.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington SB6224: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Placed in Senate Rules Committee “X”-file Feb. 24 (dead).
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Wisconsin AB945: This bill would allow most public-sector workers to bargain collectively over any increase in wages. This bill would change the vote threshold for establishing a union as a unit’s bargaining agent from 51% all employees in the unit to a simple majority of all employees voting in the unit. It would also repeal an existing annual union recertification requirement.
    • Introduced and referred to Assembly Labor and Integrated Employment Committee Feb. 24.
    • Democratic sponsorship.



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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