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Prince William County will gather more input from employees before deciding how to approach collective bargaining, following discussion during a work session Tuesday.

Under a new law that became effective May 1, Virginia municipalities can, but are not required to, enter into collective bargaining agreements with employees.

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.

Prince William’s police and fire departments have associations that act on behalf of members, but they are not formal unions. The groups advocated for larger pay increases during the crafting of the county’s budget for fiscal 2022, which starts July 1.

County Executive Chris Martino said the current system involves informally meeting with employee groups to review issues and potential changes to benefits during the budget cycle. He recommended that the county continue that process in a formal manner, which could include a memorandum of understanding.

The county must decide whether to create an ordinance governing how collective bargaining will work, which employees are eligible and the scope of bargaining. If no ordinance is created and a group of employees decides to unionize, the county would have 120 days to decide whether it will create an ordinance. 

Deputy County Executive Michelle Casciato said if the county decides to create a collective bargaining system, it would likely come with about $2 million in annual operating costs.

“The cost is not insignificant,” she said.

The board directed Martino to come back with a recommendation about establishing a group of employees to provide input on collective bargaining. 

“I don’t think that we can just arbitrarily make a decision about it by talking about it,” said Supervisor Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac. “We need some data.”

The decision was spurred over uncertainty over the main issues that bargaining would address.

“We really don’t have very many complaints from our employees,” Casciato said. “We are highly motivated as an employer to have an engaged and dedicated workforce.”

The board’s Republican members were more cautious about collective bargaining than Democrats. Republicans raised concerns about cost, a potential loss of transparency and disciplinary problems.

“You’re opening that door to a very troublesome road where you’re protecting bad apples,” said Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, R-Brentsville.

Supervisor Margaret Franklin, D-Woodbridge, said it would be important to craft agreements that did not protect “bad actors.”

“It’ll be complicated. It’ll be complex,” she said. “But we make complicated decisions all the time.”

Board Chair Ann Wheeler, D-At-Large, said employees will probably request collective bargaining so it will be important for the county to begin work on an ordinance. 

“I think we’re going to be faced with it and I want to at least get started on it,” she said. “I think it’s coming, and I don’t think sticking our head in the sand is the way to approach it.”

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

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(9) comments

Fix Prince William

June Lynne, are you kidding me? I know plenty of teachers and police in Jersey, NY, PA that make six figures in RETIREMENT because of the unions. Unions are the only reason they get top tier police and teachers in there. This article said that the Democrats will consider ditching the "bad apples", but I'd like to see them try! Misconception and his socialist views of voting in unions is going to create a police force and teacher bargaining that actually allows salary step increases every year. We need to keep these public workers in check!

Lynne June

Even FDR was against unions existing in the governmental sector because unions would be bargaining against the taxpayers. Unions were great back in the old days when there were no worker protections for non-governmental jobs. Just like corporation fat cats, Union bosses and lawyers enrich themselves off of the backs of the worker dues. I was made to join a Union when I worked in another state. When we received raises, our dues went up, too. Then, I saw how wealthy our Union lawyers were and our union boss became. I was thrilled to move to VA where I didn’t have to belong. If you work in the public sector you already know that VA gives good raises and benefits in the NOVA area without union assistance. The only ones posting for unions are those who are union officials or those who are not wise to their corrupt ways. Just check out their history online.

John Dutko

Cool story bro. Here is the FDR library take on what you just said:

https://www.fdrlibrary.org/unions

"No statements as to FDR’s views on collective bargaining for state or municipal workers were found among his papers as Governor of New York or as President."

So I charge you to back up what you say FDR said.

Fix Prince William

I agree. If we want to vote for using police, firefighters and teachers as doormats, that's our right! If we let this slide, then we're going to have firefighters, teachers and police that can actually afford to live in this county. Heck, they might even be able to have a say of how to fight fires, police crime, and teach kids. That's the last thing we want!

Popular Misconception

That's ignorant. Maybe we (or our representatives) would vote to compensate certain positions BETTER than what a collective bargaining agreement could yield. And if the taxpaying voters want to limit the funding for some particular group, such as teachers, janitors, cops, firefighters, etc., who cares? That would simply be a reflection of what the people value. If we start valuing those positions more, then either we would have volunteer organizations rise up, or we will vote for people who will increase the funding to those areas. Is that really such a difficult concept?

Fix Prince William

And you think my statement's ignorant..."volunteer organizations" to fight for cop, firefighter and teacher pay!? Ha ha ha!

Popular Misconception

Unions organize employees against the employer. For county employees, the employer is the county government, which ownership is the taxpayers who live here. So when Prince William County employees form a union, they are organizing against Prince William County taxpayers. Rather than rely on the people of the county to vote for leaders who will establish compensation packages that align with the priorities and values of the voting public, they set themselves up to go against you, me, and our neighbors (the management and ownership of their employer). Do we really want to go down this anti-democratic road?

Popular Misconception

Unions organize employees against the employer. For county employees, the employer is the county government, which ownership is the taxpayers who live here. So when Prince William County employees form a union, they are organizing against Prince William County taxpayers. Rather than rely on the people of the county to vote for leaders who will establish compensation packages that align with the priorities and values of the voting public, they set themselves up to go against you, me, and our neighbors (the management and ownership of their employer). Do we really want to go down the anti-democratic road?

Popular Misconception

Unions organize employees against their employer. For county employees, the employer is the county government, which ownership is the taxpayers who live here. So when Prince William County employees form a union, they are organizing against the taxpayers of Prince William County. They are organizing against you, me, and our neighbors instead of working with the county to serve the public. Is this really the road we want to go down?

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