Letter: Shawn Curtin, Leesburg

Editor: I read the sobering Nov. 19 article in Loudoun Now regarding collective bargaining possibly being implemented for county employees. I was struck by the estimate that the county might have to hire 12 additional staff to deal with unions, at a cost of $1.4 million a year (an average cost per employee of $117,000). A labor relations board adds another $300,000 per year. My first thought was, wow, that’s a lot of money. My second thought was, what problem is being solved by such a large annual expenditure?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average government employee makes $7,240 more than private-sector employees. In addition, government employees on average also receive better health insurance and retirement benefits, work fewer hours, receive more leave and paid holidays, and are three times less likely to be fired or laid off as compared to private-sector employees. On a county-specific level, govsalaries.com reports that Loudoun County employees’ median salaries are 18% higher than the U.S. median. What issues would labor unions advocate for on behalf of these employees? Still higher pay? More lavish benefits and retirement plans? More restrictive workplace regulations? Even higher job security? And how much more will all that add to the taxpayer’s bill?

Labor unions where involved in helping improve working conditions for employees in many industries—the 40-hour work week, safety regulations, child labor laws and more. But those problems were largely solved roughly 100 years ago. Now it seems unions are perhaps a solution in search of a problem.

I applaud county employees for helping make Loudoun a desirable, safe, clean and well-educated place to live. But do you really need taxpayers to cough up $1.7 million dollars (or more) per year in order to perhaps make your jobs somewhat better than they already are?Do you know how much you would be required to pay in union dues? I urge county leaders and taxpayers to consider the long-term impacts of initiating union involvement in the county employee workforce. Not all U.S. states allow unionization of government employees, but the ones that do can provide an important case study of the effects. One well-known example is Illinois, which faces approximately $140 billion in unfunded pension liability for their public employees.

This law applies to the entire state, and since Virginia has 95 counties, it’s not difficult math to realize that widespread unionization of government employees could create an annual tax increase of hundreds of millions of dollars statewide. How does such a change happen? In the 2019 Virginia election, Democrats gained majority control of the state for the first time in over 25 years. As part of their first legislative session, Virginia law was changed to allow unionization of government employees. During that election cycle, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, labor unions donated approximately $6.7 million dollars to certain candidates. It appears that their investment has the potential to pay off handsomely for the unions, at the expense of Virginia taxpayers.

Shawn Curtin, Leesburg

3 thoughts on “Letter: Shawn Curtin, Leesburg

  • 2020-11-24 at 4:44 pm
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    Shawn,

    WHY don’t we know what the top ten “PROBLEMS” the BOS is working on and will resolve during their next three years? It seems we are lurching from one social issue to another instead of a plan that justifies the millions invested in this management team and allows some accountability. Is the $1.4 billion the school system is absorbing appropriate given schools are mostly closed? Is Route 15 north of Leesburg (which had another awful accident blocking the road for hours yesterday) progressing? Are we meeting our planned limits of buried garbage in the county? Are taxes which are already 39% higher than the average in VA going down due to the incredible increase in data center income? WHAT ARE THE PLANS?

  • 2020-11-26 at 7:31 am
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    I agree we need transparency as to what budget priorities are and why there needs to be these additional expenditures ,that are in part designed to require even more expenditures by Loudoun County residents.. Why is it that the current tax base is never enough? It’s easy to spend other’s money. Look at how many states, cities and local municipalities are in the red.. They put US in debt, and we as citizens somehow allow it.. Very frustrating. Spending this money DOES NOT SERVE Loudoun County residents. It serves the government apparatus that continues to work to extract more of our hard earned money.

    • 2020-11-30 at 12:17 pm
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      rgmartin, ignoring the fact that there is something called inflation, which generally increases the cost of everything every year, I would argue that your statement that “the current tax bas is never enough” is incorrect. The fact that the tax RATE has decreased every year for probably a decade proves that point. You can’t decrease the tax rate of a tax base that’s insufficient to support your required spending.

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