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Loudoun County School Board, local union at odds over resolution

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(The Center Square) – A branch of the Virginia Education Association in Loudoun County is pushing for a collective bargaining vote to happen after the new year rather than Monday.

The Loudoun Education Association wants it deferred until after recently elected board members have assumed office.

“The school board has not made any final determinations on the provisions of the proposed LCPS Collective Bargaining Resolution – or whether it will be adopting such Resolution – and is scheduled to address it as an action item at its upcoming December 12, 2023 meeting,” Natalie Allen, a spokeswoman for Loudoun County Public Schools, wrote in an email to The Center Square.

The county’s school board is in the midst of drafting its collective bargaining ordinance. It passed a resolution for one in March in response to steps taken by the Loudoun Education Association, a local branch of the state teachers’ union, the Virginia Education Association.

The Loudoun Education Association began a collective bargaining drive in August 2020. In January of this year, the union submitted a cover letter and affidavit to the school board asserting that it had collected signed authorization cards from a majority – “specifically, 51%” – of certified employees “supporting collective bargaining, authorizing LEA to represent them, and confirming their request for the Loudoun County School Board to adopt a resolution for collective bargaining,” according to LCPS’ collective bargaining FAQ page.

The ordinance is supposed to outline the terms by which collective bargaining will take place in the school district. The school board has faced pushback from the Loudoun Education Association, which chose to hire a law firm to draft the ordinance instead of using the association’s drafted resolution.

The association also objected to a rule that was in the draft resolution until the board had it removed Nov. 27 – namely that at least 50% of the employees in a bargaining unit had to vote in the election for a bargaining representative or the results would be void.

Association President Sandy Sullivan told the Loudoun-Times Mirror expecting 50% to show up in any election is not reasonable.

Overall, the union isn’t happy with the draft and wants to be a part of crafting the framework within which it, and potentially other unions, will operate.

The county passed a collective bargaining ordinance in December 2021, but the school board has to pass its own if teachers and other employees want to engage in collective bargaining.

And all of this activity is happening because of a bill passed in 2020, giving local governments the ability to determine their rules on collective bargaining.

All employees have a First Amendment right to join a union if they so choose. In Virginia, local governments were prohibited from collective bargaining by a state Supreme Court ruling in 1977, and in 1993, Democratic Gov. Douglas Wilder signed bills codifying a ban on public sector collective bargaining.

In 2020 that changed. The Democratic-majority General Assembly under Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam passed House Bill 582, giving local governments the power to pass collective bargaining ordinances, authorizing collective bargaining in their localities starting in 2021.

The law does not compel city councils, county boards of supervisors or school boards in any way to allow collective bargaining or vote on the issue unless confronted with “certification from a majority of public employees in a [bargaining] unit” seeking union representation – as the Loudoun school board was in January by the Loudoun Education Association. Then the local governing body must vote, according to HB582, within 120 days of receiving such notice on whether it will adopt an ordinance allowing collective bargaining in its locality, as the school board did in March.

Since the school board voted to create an ordinance, then it must go about the business of drafting it. The draft undergoes revisions, a public hearing and finally, a board vote to adopt or not.

Today, the possibility of collective bargaining has been brought before many local entities across the state. Some have rejected it and others have embraced it. The Loudoun County School Board will soon add another decision.

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