Virginia lawmakers approve bill allowing local governments to bargain collectively with employees

On March 8, the Virginia General Assembly approved legislation to repeal Virginia’s prohibition against public-sector collective bargaining. This measure would allow local governments to bargain collectively with their employees upon adopting an authorizing ordinance or resolution.

The approved legislation, SB939, is the product of a joint conference committee compromise between two competing bills: SB939 and HB582.

As introduced, HB582 proposed:

  • Repealing the current prohibition against collective bargaining by public-sector workers.
  • Establishing the Public Employee Relations Board to designate bargaining units and providing for certification and decertification elections for unions.
  • Requiring 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.”
  • Repealing 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.”

By contrast, SB939, as introduced, proposed allowing local governments to bargain collectively with their workers at their discretion and upon adopting an authorizing ordinance or statute.

The joint conference committee amended SB939 to require any municipality that has not done so to vote on an authorizing ordinance or resolution within 120 days of receiving certification that a majority of workers wish to form a collective bargaining unit.

On March 8, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 51-44 in favor of the conference committee report. Fifty-one House Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Forty-three Republicans and one Democrat voted against it. The Virginia State Senate approved the report 21-18 on the same day. All Senate Democrats voted for the bill and all Republicans present voted against it.

What comes next?

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has not indicated whether he intends to sign the legislation into law. Virginia is a Democratic trifecta, meaning Democrats hold the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.

What are the reactions?

Support

  • Jim Livingston, president of the Virginia Education Association (VEA), said, “This new law means that educators will have a seat at the table. VEA members across the state will be working their tails off to make sure their school board understands how students will benefit from contract negotiations. And what board wants to deny children an advocate?”
  • 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.”

Opposition

  • John Kalb, vice-president of the National Right to Work Committee, said, “Monopoly bargaining in any workplace – public or private – forces all employees in a workplace to accept the one-size-fits-all representation of union bosses whether they are union members or not. The fact that, under this bill, public-sector union bosses will be able to coerce employees into accepting their monopoly representation they oppose is an attack on workers’ rights. Even convicted criminals are entitled to choose their own representation, yet, under this bill, government employees would be denied that right and forced into union monopoly ranks against their will.”
  • Sen. Mark Peake (R) said, “I think this is a very, very bad idea for the whole commonwealth of Virginia.”

What we’ve been reading

Presidential candidates on labor policy

We recently compiled candidate statements on a number of labor policy issues. These statements were collected from candidate websites, editorials, speeches, and interviews. See the articles below for more:

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 92 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 March 13, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart March 13, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart March 13, 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 AB3096: Existing law prohibits public employers from deterring or discouraging public employees or applicants from becoming or remaining members of a union. This bill would extend that provision to the University of California.
    • Amended and re-referred to Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee March 10.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Louisiana HB572: This bill would allow teachers and other school employees to cease withholding union dues from their wages at any time upon submitting a written or email request.
    • Read and referred to the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee March 9.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Maine LD1960: This bill would make communications between municipal/state workers and their unions confidential in proceedings before the Maine Labor Relations Board.
    • Died (placed in legislative files) March 10.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Maine LD900: This bill authorizes certain classes of public-sector employees to strike.
    • Marked as “unfinished business” March 10.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Maryland HB775: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to certain faculty at Baltimore City Community College.
    • House Appropriations Committee reported unfavorably. Withdrawn March 9.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Missouri HB2341: This bill would require public employees to provide annual written or electronic authorization for payroll deductions of union dues.
    • House Workforce Development Hearing scheduled March 9.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • House and Senate agreed to conference committee report March 8.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Delivered to governor March 9.
    • 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% of 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.
    • Fiscal estimate received March 9.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Wisconsin SB854: 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% of 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.
    • Fiscal estimate received March 9.
    • Democratic sponsorship.



About the author

Jerrick Adams

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

Bitnami