Home Committee kills attempt to repeal collective bargaining for public service workers

Committee kills attempt to repeal collective bargaining for public service workers

virginia state capitol
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The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee voted 12-3 Monday to kill Sen. Mark Obenshain’s bill that would have repealed a 2020 law empowering localities to give their employees the freedom to collectively bargain for a contract.

Since taking effect last year, Del. Elizabeth Guzman’s HB 582 and Sen. Dick Saslaw’s SB 939 have triggered a slew of collective bargaining ordinances. Fairfax CountyLoudoun CountyArlington County, the City of Alexandria, and the Richmond School Board have all passed measures to opt-in to giving their workers a voice on the job.

Prince William County has taken a step in that direction, while workers in Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Richmond and Norfolk and teachers in Albemarle County and Prince William County are engaged in various stages of the process of securing collective bargaining rights.

The Daily Press reported last week that Newport News public service workers are petitioning their City Council for collective bargaining rights.

The committee also killed SB 721, which was another attempt to weaken the power of public service worker unions.

“My coworkers and I make sure the streets are clean and safe for Norfolk residents. I have been on call for the past two weeks without a day off, keeping streets clear of snow and salted during the recent snowstorms,” said Calvin Thompson, an equipment operator for the City of Norfolk. “​​It hasn’t been easy. While I am proud to be a Norfolk City employee, working to keep the city running through the pandemic has had a devastating effect on our workforce. The city is struggling to keep city positions filled, and I am working two different jobs for the city because we don’t have enough staff. While this may be in part due to the pandemic, the city had been short-staffed and city employees were operating under less than ideal conditions several years prior. That is why I am here in opposition to SB 374, 721 and any proposed legislation that repeals collective bargaining or diminishes our freedom to join together in a union.”

“SB 374 bill would wipe out years of advancement for public sector employees in the form of being able to collectively bargain for a contract with their employer,” said Joe Mirabile, an active front line fire fighter and EMT in Prince William County. “COVID brought many new risks and challenges to our day-to-day. By giving us a voice on the job, collective bargaining would empower us to secure safer conditions and better help our community get through this pandemic. If the General Assembly cares about our first responders and the people we serve, they will reject these bills.”

“My co-workers and I have been on the front lines of the pandemic every day, keeping our community healthy, safe and moving forward. We passed collective bargaining in Fairfax County to ensure that we have a seat at the table for good jobs, quality public services, and safe workplaces,” said Tammie Wondong, a 30+ year Fairfax County employee and Fairfax president of SEIU Virginia 512. “United together, we will continue to mobilize and organize so that every public service worker in Virginia can come together and bargain for a better future.”

“The right to negotiate contracts is a win-win—both educators and students benefit. When the professionals who know our students’ names are given a voice, the needs of both are guaranteed to be front and center,” said Dr. James J. Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association. “Collective bargaining is one of our best ways to advocate for children and for public education.”



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