Loudoun Education Association is poised to begin collective bargaining, but negotiations are at a standstill as the school division is asking for confidential membership information, LEA President Sandy Sullivan said.
LEA submitted a letter to the School Board on Oct. 19 stating that the association obtained the necessary membership to begin collective bargaining in the form of authorization cards signed by educators. The letter also asks the School Board to adopt its resolution to authorize collective bargaining.
Sullivan said that members’ primary concern was privacy.
“The concern is ‘will my boss know? Who would know this information?’” Sullivan said. “We’ve been clear with all the employees we’ve talked to that their information is confidential.”
But the school division, it seems, is unwilling to move forward with the process if that promise is kept.
“It is LCPS’ understanding that to constitute certification that a majority of public employees of LCPS in a unit considered by such employees to be appropriate for public bargaining LCPS needs attestation to the accuracy of information submitted,” school division spokesman Wayde Byard said in an email. Byard said that the information on the cards would be confidential. Still, it’s unclear who in the division’s administration would be handling the cards.
LEA’s solution is to task a third party with certifying the membership, although Sullivan said the school division won’t acquiesce.
“We agree that if the school system wants the membership verified, that’s reasonable. But it is our duty to protect the information of the employees who signed those cards,” she said. “We’re in a place where they don’t want a third party, they want the cards.”
As negotiations sit stagnant, educators are facing challenging staffing conditions during the surge of the Omicron variant. School staff are stretched thin, and central office staff are being sent to work in schools to cover classrooms and duties. Sullivan said that the surge of COVID-19 cases is exacerbating existing staffing issues, including for substitutes and bus drivers.
Legislation in 2021 allowed public employees in Virginia to engage in collective bargaining with their employers. To represent a workforce, a union must prove support from a majority of employees in a defined bargaining unit.