Supervisors have taken another vote to shape an almost-certain future ordinance in Loudoun opening the door to collective bargaining for county employees.
Supervisor voted 6-3 along party lines Tuesday night to support a local law that will set the county government up to recognize and bargain with union representatives, the stronger of the two options up for consideration. The other option, meet-and-confer, would involve nonbinding discussions with unions. They also decided that within bargaining units—employees that are eligible to negotiate as a group—when employees vote on whether to be represented by a union, only a majority of the people who show up to vote need to vote yes—not a majority of all the people in that unit. Supporters compared that to elections in the U.S.
The county’s new counsel for union matters, John Sherwood, also clarified for them that no matter the result of that election, in Virginia, people cannot be forced to join a union or pay union dues. However, any concessions or benefits won by that union would apply to all employees in that bargaining unit, regardless of union membership status.
And supervisors decided that they would do their first round of work as a corporate body on the new ordinance in secret, voting to hold a closed-door meeting with legal counsel on Sept. 21. They plan a public hearing on the proposed ordinance Oct. 13.
In pressing for support of the plan, County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) hearkened back to the previous board’s efforts to revamp the county pay scales and staffing levels.
“The fact is, we were a county that was not paying our employees what they were worth by a long shot in the district,” Randall said. “We had some of the highest caseloads if not the highest caseloads in Family Services in Virginia, and the fact that it got that bad in Loudoun County made me question: Would it have got to that point had we had a union?”
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) worried about removing incentives for outstanding employees.
“The biggest concern that I have is about the elimination of the merit-based pay system that we have long established in Loudoun, that has worked very well for us,” Letourneau said.
And the debate drew an unusual rebuke from Randall for Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian).
“The reason the sky is falling for some people in Loudon County right now is because this is going to potentially, give the little people power, this is potentially going to give women power, this is potentially going to give women more pay, this is potentially going to give minorities more pay, and the sky is falling for certain people who want to keep our society ruled by white supremacy,” Briskman said.
Randall said it was not, pointing to the already diverse leadership staff in Loudoun, and that “it is the epitome of white privilege to not know what white supremacy actually is.”
“You’re right, little people will have a chance to say what they want to say, but that’s all little people—little brown people, little Black people, little white people, whoever wants to talk,” Randall said. “If you make everything about race, then nothing is about race.”
Julius Reynolds, chairman of Loudoun County Chapter of SEIU Virginia 512 hailed the action.
“By providing workers a real voice to negotiate our pay, benefits, and working conditions, collective bargaining empowers employees and improves services for residents,” he stated after the vote. “We need and deserve collective bargaining in Loudoun County.”
Supervisors Letourneau, Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin) reiterated their votes against bringing collective bargaining to Loudoun.