Three years ago, I stood in a room full of folks who sought an end to Virginia’s “right to work” law, which banned workers from unionizing and in other ways undermined protections for workers in the Commonwealth. In 2019, Oxfam rated Virginia as being the nation’s worst state for workers.
When asked what I would do on the local level to support the repeal effort, I said that I would enable public sector employees to collectively bargain, setting an example for other large employers in Prince William County and beyond. I firmly believe that this is the right thing to do for our employees and that it keeps our organization competitive in a tight labor market so that we can continue to offer the high levels of service that our residents deserve.
Last week, I delivered on that promise. During the Tuesday, Nov. 22 Board of County Supervisors Meeting, my Democratic colleagues and I voted to adopt Prince William’s first-ever Collective Bargaining Ordinance. Some of the elements for which I advocated and am proud to offer our workforce include:
- Binding arbitration to ensure that impasse resolutions have teeth
- Use of a Labor Relations Administrator who will form relationships with county management and employee organizations so that negotiations can be managed by a professional who is familiar with your processes and people
- A democratic election process that calculates vote share based on voting members, rather than penalizing labor organizations by factoring in workers who do not vote
- A well-defined process for labor and the county organization to collaborate in the event of emergencies
- The ability to bargain over wages, benefits, and health and safety working conditions as well as other terms of employment
This is a historic moment. Prince William County workers will have a seat at the table for the first time in decades. Firefighters, police officers, social workers, mental health clinicians, and other frontline employees who keep our communities safe and our population healthy will have a say in their compensation, safety measures, and processes that can best support them in serving our community.
To ensure that this process moves forward in ways that serve our labor force and residents, I issued two directives immediately following the adoption of the ordinance, which will:
1. Commit the County (and the Board) to a 90-day review period so we can continue to get feedback from county workers and the community so we can refine the ordinance as needed.
2. Direct staff to begin review of the county’s personnel policies as they pertain to part-time, non-benefitted employees so we can include them in collective bargaining.
With the passage of this ordinance, the Board majority stands by the employees who contribute so much to our quality of life, cultivating an environment that will help us to recruit and retain top talent to serve the people of Prince William.