Loudoun Supervisors to Let Unions Meet with County Employees

The Loudoun Board of Supervisors has voted to let unions into county buildings to talk to and recruit public employees.

Currently, under state law, state and local governments are not allowed to recognize any union or collective bargaining. Although some county employees are union members already with organizations like the Service Employees International Union Virginia 512, whose leaders speak on behalf of the concerns of county employees during the public input sessions in every annual budget cycle, unions cannot bargain on behalf of employees.

But with a new state law signed in April and going into effect in May 2021, localities may elect to recognize collective bargaining representatives, allowing unions to negotiate on behalf of employees. Employees of constitutional officers, in Loudoun including the sheriff, commonwealth’s attorney, treasurer, commissioner of the revenue and clerk of the Circuit Court, are excluded.

Democrats on the county board are moving toward that possibility, starting with a party-line vote on Oct. 20 to allow labor associations and organizations with more than 100 members to hold open houses twice per year in the Shenandoah Building and County Government Center in Leesburg, and in the county government offices on Ridgetop Circle in Sterling. Supervisors also directed the staff to allow for those organizations to include materials in the county’s new hire packets, if they have more than 100 members who are Loudoun County government employees.

The change was introduced by County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Vice Chairman Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling). Randall said now is the time to get in front of the change by preparing the county government and its employees.

“We’re no longer talking about whether ‘meet and confer’ and/or collective bargaining will come to Virginia,” Randall said. “That’s already done. Were it not for COVID, it would probably be here already.”

Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said the change is “putting the cart before the horse,” and that just because collective bargaining will come to Virginia in May doesn’t mean it will automatically be coming to Loudoun.

“I understand the political realities of the board in that it probably will pass, but we’re going to have a discussion next month at the finance committee about what the financial implications of that are,” said Letourneau, who chairs that committee.

Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin) evoked the murder of George Floyd to argue against unions.

“Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd, who was a police officer, and he was part of a union, and we’ve seen this in many other police departments across the country—they had collective bargaining, it’s become pretty evident that he had 17 misconduct complaints and yet remained a member of the Minneapolis Police Department,” Kershner said. “Why? Because when you set up a collective bargaining system, you make it very, very difficult if not impossible to fire individuals.”

“I can point to as many examples of law enforcement agencies that are not unionized that have as many abuses as those that are,” said Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn). “You can abuse a system without unions, and you can abuse a system with unions.”

Saines pointed out that several workers’ organizations already exist in Loudoun, such as the Police Benevolent Association and the Loudoun Career Fire Fighters Association, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 3756.

“I’m not sure when unions became a bad word,” Saines said. “If it were not for unions, we would not have a five-day work week, eight-hour days, holidays, paid time off, overtime, child labor laws in place, minimum wage, good benefits for employees—I could go on and on.”

Under the new state law, public employees will also be able to force a vote on whether to allow unions. If a majority of eligible employees ask the local governing body for a vote, that body has 120 days to hold a vote on whether to allow collective bargaining, although nothing can force the local board to approve collective bargaining.

Striking remains unavailable to public employees. Under existing law, employees who strike are considered to have quit their jobs are ineligible for any state or local public job in Virginia for a year.

Supervisors voted 6-3, with Supervisors Letourneau, Kershner and Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) opposed.

“For a very long time there’s been a meta-message in Loudoun County that unions were not welcome, and you have to be really careful to join a union, and I want to change that message,” Randall said.

rgreene@loudounnow.com

8 thoughts on “Loudoun Supervisors to Let Unions Meet with County Employees

  • 2020-10-23 at 3:35 pm
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    This BoS is a menace to Loudoun’s taxpayers.

    Workplace rules established decades upon decades ago HAVE NOTHING to do with today’s unions. ESPECIALLY public ones. This is all about ensuring that county employees have the ability to exert EVEN MORE control over those who they are supposedly serving.

    Public employees are already enjoying unprecedented job security and benefits during this pandemic. Do we really need to push more costs and less accountability down to those of us who live here and pay more than our fair share in taxes?

    Is anyone in charge looking out for the residents, taxpayers and families in Loudoun? That’s a question directed at the BoS, the SB, the school system administration, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, et al.

  • 2020-10-23 at 4:01 pm
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    I see nothing at all wrong with permitting the exploration of allowing County employees to negotiate via unions if so desired. It is called freedom. Not the autocracy and plutarchy so many appear to desire for this nation.

    • 2020-10-24 at 1:32 pm
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      If the County employees want to talk with the union, they can do it on their own time and not in taxpayer funded buildings. Unions had their place back in the bad old days but I get tired of hearing the same old talking points about “five-day work week, eight-hour days, holidays, paid time off, overtime, child labor laws in place, minimum wage, good benefits for employees” and so on. Considering that the government employees who work in the Loudoun County Government office do their work in a pleasant and safe environment, they probably don’t even need any sort of union representation and the quality of their work is what counts. Saines forgot to mention how the auto unions nearly destroyed the America automobile industry and how quality employees are often screwed over because of stupid seniority rules. Saines also forgot to mention how one of the major impediments to improving public education in America are teachers unions. Teachers unions protect the worst of the worst and keep them from being fired and then you wonder why America’s children have trouble competing in the world. So, I don’t want one penny of taxpayer money going to let union representatives come into taxpayer funded buildings or meeting with employees during business hours. If a union person is in a government building trying to recruit, they are using taxpayer funded utilities and when they speak, they are keeping a government employee from doing their taxpayer funded job. Out of the building and after work is fine; inside the building and between the hours of 7:30AM and 5PM, not fine!

  • 2020-10-23 at 4:16 pm
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    This would not be good for the county or county employees.

    Why is Randall advocating for this?

    The Service Employees International Union is one of America’s largest labor unions. Behind their $260 million war chest lies a dedicated effort to restrict employees’ rights in the workplace; a highly partisan political operation; and a history of intimidation, crime and corruption.

  • 2020-10-23 at 4:29 pm
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    Public sector unions are a complete disaster. At a time when we need to lay off large numbers of Loudoun County employees to align with the new COVID financial realities, the Democrats want to make it more difficult to right-size our County workforce.

    Commercial tax revenue is falling, meaning residential property taxes are going to go up.

    The Democrats are killing Loudoun one slice at a time.

  • 2020-10-23 at 4:35 pm
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    Phyllis and the gang have to pay back their big money supporters. And they’ll use Loudoun homeowner’s tax money to do it with.

  • 2020-10-25 at 10:53 pm
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    All you Blue State transplants who came to Virginia for low taxes and better jobs and voted for Democrats like you did in your home states are about to see the Old Dominion go down the drain. Public sector unions are what bankrupted Illinois, California, NY and NJ It will happen here, too, and the jobs and tax ratables will leave the state. Lord, are you going to regret voting for these Democrats!

  • 2020-10-27 at 8:51 am
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    Buffington voted against a union? If I’m not mistaken, he belongs to one as a Capital police officer. Kershner? He represents police officers and deputies as a lawyer for the Southern States Police Benevolent Association. The hypocrisy of these two right wing republican stooges is galling.

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