Coalition Statement on Collective Bargaining
April 13, 2020
April 13, 2020
Statement on Delay of Collective Bargaining Legislation
RICHMOND, Va. – “Stronger Communities. A Better Bargain,” a coalition of labor unions representing thousands of workers across Virginia, today issued the following statement in response to the governor’s decision to delay the effective date of H.B. 582/S.B. 939 to May of 2021:
“We are disappointed that the effective date of this legislation will be delayed until next May. Virginia is one of only three states in the nation to ban all its public sector workers from the freedom to collectively bargain, and this bill — which will lift that ban as it applies to localities and school boards — was an important first step in the right direction. Now, anti-worker forces have successfully capitalized on a national tragedy in order to thwart our teachers, firefighters, social workers and law enforcement officers from getting a voice on the job.
“This delay means that governing bodies like the Fairfax School Board and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, both of which have already expressed their support of collective bargaining through affirmative votes, will be denied the option to do so for at least another year. Choosing May of 2021 as an effective date also leaves open the possibility that the governor will go back to the General Assembly next session and ask for yet another delay. It is easier to postpone a freedom than it is to take one away.
“We are as baffled as we are saddened by this delay, as there is no inherent cost to collective bargaining. It is merely a process of bringing workers to the table to negotiate not just their salaries, but also their working conditions. Things that directly benefit communities — staffing levels, class sizes, adequate training, up-to-date emergency response equipment — can all be negotiated in a contract. Collective bargaining does not exist in a vacuum, but within the constraints of budgets and projected revenue. The locality retains the power of appropriation under this bill, and nothing requires the locality to agree to a provision it can’t fund. Rather, collective bargaining is about working collaboratively to find mutually-beneficial solutions within the parameters of what can realistically be achieved.
“Throughout this pandemic, our public service workers have gone to extraordinary measures, often risking their own health, to deliver the essential services that make our communities run. Our teachers have adapted their classrooms to online formats, often while caring for their own children at home. Our firefighters are transporting COVID-19 patients and are contracting the disease. And for weeks after their schools closed, our custodians were still showing up to disinfect buildings and deliver lunches to students in need. You can’t say that you support these workers while simultaneously denying them the right to collectively bargain — which their counterparts in the private sector have the freedom to do.
“We thank Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, Senator Jennifer Boysko, and Delegate Paul Krizek for their relentless commitment to this bill, and we vow to keep fighting until Virginia’s record for workers is no longer last in the nation.”
Authorized by “Stronger Communities. A Better Bargain”, a coalition comprising Virginia AFL-CIO; The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); The American Federation of Teachers (AFT); The Communications Workers of America (CWA); Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Virginia Education Association (VEA); The Virginia Professional Fire Fighters (VPFF) and The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400.