The Prince William Education Association won both of its bids to represent the county’s more than 11,500 non-administrative school employees in a new collective bargaining Friday.
The union was successful in both of its elections; securing exclusive bargaining rights for the school division’s over 7,200 teachers, nurses, counselors, librarians and other state-licensed employees, as well as its more than 4,400 classified employees – bus drivers, food service workers, teaching assistants and others.
The association will now serve as the sole collective bargaining representative for both groups starting later this year during development of the school system’s fiscal year 2025 budget.
“The School Board is very pleased that so many employees made their voices heard through this process. Now that both Bargaining Units have selected the PWEA as their exclusive representative for the purposes of collective bargaining, the Board looks forward to working with the PWEA in good faith to address employees’ concerns and reach a reasonable and fair agreement in conformity with timelines and procedures set forth in the resolution,” the school board said in a joint statement Friday, noting previous salary increases for employees ranging from 19-24% for the average employee over four years.
The PWEA did not immediately have a comment after Friday’s results were released and PWEA President Maggie Hansford was not immediately available for comment.
The two bargaining units held concurrent but distinct elections, with online and phone voting running from Jan. 17 to Feb. 10. In both elections, at least half of the bargaining unit’s employees had to participate in elections for their outcomes to take effect, per the collective bargaining resolution the county school board adopted last fall. The stipulation was a point of contention from the time it was unveiled, with association members saying it placed an undemocratic burden on them and the school board saying that it was meant to ensure that a small group couldn’t become the bargaining representative without the support of at least a quarter of its employees.
But both groups cleared the participation threshold, and an overwhelming majority of voters sought to make PWEA their representative. Of the 7,280 eligible state-certified employees, 4,938 cast votes. Of those votes, 94.63% were in support of PWEA and just 5.37% were opposed.
Of the 4,482 eligible classified employees, 2,516 cast votes, with 80.96% supporting PWEA and 19.04% opposed.
“I am excited to see that our teachers and classified employees have broadly participated in this election. They have spoken and I look forward to the collective bargaining process beginning this spring, with the intention to conclude discussions in December for the 2025 fiscal year,” School Board Chair Babur said in a statement Friday night.
Under the school board’s collective bargaining resolution, negotiations between the board and the PWEA can’t begin until April, with a Dec. 1 deadline for an agreement. Wages, benefits, and certain other terms of employment will be on the table, but the school division will retain the sole authority to set job qualifications and descriptions, increase or decrease staffing levels, transfer and assign employees. The division will also retain the right to terminate, suspend or otherwise discipline employees.
If the two sides can’t come to an agreement on the following fiscal year’s budget by Dec. 1, either side can declare an impasse and go to mediation with a third party. If an agreement still isn’t reached after mediation, all unsettled matters would fall to the school board to decide. To much objection from the PWEA, there will be no binding arbitration process. The school board’s attorneys said in the fall that any such process would likely violate Virginia law, as school boards don’t have the authority to tax and set revenue levels, they only appropriate the revenues allocated to them by the Board of County Supervisors, state and federal government.
The upcoming fiscal year 2024 budget is still in the works, with Superintendent LaTanya McDade recommending a 5% raise on average for division employees, who saw a 7% bump on average in the current fiscal year. There will not be a collective bargaining process for that budget.
The vote came just over a year after PWEA members began collecting signatures. In March, the union submitted thousands over 3,000 pro-union cards from certified employees, prompting the school board to vote to allow collective bargaining in June. In the fall, the board approved a collective bargaining resolution that outlined – in broad terms – what the bargaining process would cover and the process for elections. In December, the union came back with enough signatures from classified employees to trigger the start of elections in January.
Over the course of last year, PWEA members and other teachers repeatedly made the case for collective bargaining in front of the school board, saying that it would help to keep the school division competitive in recruitment and retention amid nationwide staffing shortages, and arguing that the pandemic had only added to educators’ work loads and stresses.
The vast majority of PWEA’s dues-paying membership is comprised of teachers and other state-certified staff, but both employee groups voted to be represented by the association. There have been a number of disagreements and contentious back-and-forths between the union and the school board since the bargaining effort began last January, but PWEA Attorney Broderick Dunn thanked the board and said he hoped the two sides could continue to have a “good working relationship” towards the betterment of Prince William County’s students, educators and taxpayers.
He said the win wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of Hansford and other PWEA members.
“I hope everybody who was involved takes a step back, … I think everybody involved should really be proud,” he said. “And now the hard work begins.”
Typical democrats. Rewarding failure with no accountability. If you've not done this already, put your house up for sale or you will never be able to sell it. Public unions are akin to Communism and cronyism. Dems will increase wages, thereby increasing taxes, thereby donate to their campaigns. Is it any wonder why we have failing schools and teachers and administrators who no longer care about education? This is just public welfare on a more corrupt scale.
Teachers unions / associations are bad for the educational process. The losers will be the students and their learning ability. We need full school choice in this country so that parents can decide where their kids should receive their education. Of course the teachers associations are strongly against that. The reason should be clear.
Check out the bankrupt Rust Belt for the future of PWs residential real estate: Sky high property taxes for a workforce that's overpaid with breathtakingly extravagant benefits, cafeteria workers earning $80,000 / year and food service supervisors earning more than Principals.
80k/year food service!? Donald, send me the classifieds on that one!
In New York State the education unions cointrol the state legislature and local governments. School cafeteria jobs are plum jobs and after a few years someone cooking and serving breakfast and lunch for a couple hundred kids can earn $35 to $45 / hour. Needless to say residential real estate taxes are in the stratosphere.
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