Prince William Government Center sign

Prince William County has approved a collective bargaining ordinance but will continue considering ways to strengthen it.

The Board of County Supervisors voted 5-3 to approve the ordinance during its meeting Tuesday.

The board’s five Democrats voted in favor of it and the three Republican supervisors opposed it.

The ordinance governs how collective bargaining will work, which employees are eligible and the scope of bargaining.

State code had previously prohibited local governments from recognizing labor unions among its employees or entering into collective bargaining contracts with them. Employees for state agencies and constitutional officers are not included in the new legislation.

During a public hearing before the vote, several county employees said the ordinance wasn’t strong enough because it excluded part-time and did not allow bargaining over working conditions.

The ordinance approved Tuesday limits bargaining to pay and benefits. It makes about 4,096 employees eligible for collective bargaining and excludes 1,754.

Beth Walker, who works in the county library system, said many library employees were used to staff an emergency call center during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said those employees deserve a seat at the table rather than being excluded from bargaining.

“I just don’t think that’s a great way to repay them for their service to this county,” Walker said.

After the ordinance was approved, the board voted 5-3 to review the ordinance over the next 90 days and receive additional input from employees. 

The board then voted 6-2, with Republican Supervisor Pete Candland joining Democrats, to review how part-time employees could be included in the ordinance.

Supervisor Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac, said Tuesday’s vote was only the first step in the process.

“There is opportunity for improvement as we go forward,” she said. “I think we have to start somewhere.”

Nolan Stout covers Prince William County. Reach him at nstout@insidenova.com or @TheNolanStout on Facebook and Twitter.

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