Frequently Asked Questions About Collective Bargaining

June 2, 2022

Q1. What is collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining is the process by which employees negotiate with their employers through a chosen representative to set various contractual terms and conditions of their employment.

Q2. Is collective bargaining allowed in Virginia?

Prior to 2020, Virginia had expressly banned collective bargaining for public employees since 1977. During the 2020 Legislative Session, the General Assembly considered several bills seeking to repeal the Commonwealth’s prohibition on collective bargaining for public employees. Ultimately, the General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed, a bill that gave school divisions the option of adopting a resolution allowing collective bargaining for School Board employees. The local option is codified in Virginia Code § 40.1-57.2 and was effective May 1, 2021.

Q3. Who is eligible for collective bargaining?

Only employees of a governing body (for example, the Prince William County School Board) are eligible for inclusion in a collective bargaining resolution. This refers to employees who are subject to the authority and control of the School Board, either directly or through the Superintendent.

Q4. Does the school board have to allow collective bargaining?

No, the new state law does not mandate that a locality extend collective bargaining rights to its employees. However, it does require a school board that has not adopted such an ordinance to “take a vote to adopt or not adopt [a] … resolution” “within 120 days of receiving certification from a majority of public employees” in a self-identified bargaining unit (a bargaining unit is a group of employees that is represented by a labor union.)

Q5. What is the process for employees to seek collective bargaining?

Virginia Code Section 40.1-57.2 provides that any collective bargaining resolution must set forth procedures for the certification and decertification of exclusive bargaining representatives for employee units, including a means for other employee groups to participate in this process. Because the statute does not contain any procedures for verifying employee support for a certification, the School Board held a specially called meeting on March 24, 2022, after providing three days’ notice of the meeting as provided by law, to address procedures for verifying a certification. At that meeting the Board voted to approve procedures for the submission of an employee certification.

Q6. If employees receive collective bargaining rights, can they go on strike or obligate the School Board to appropriate funds?

No, the statute states that no collective bargaining ordinance shall restrict a locality’s governing body’s ability to establish a budget or appropriate funds. Additionally, the new statute does not authorize employees to strike, which remains strictly prohibited.

Q7. If the statute became effective in May 2021, what is happening now (April 2022)?

On March 18, 2022, the Prince William Education Association (PWEA) filed a cover letter and affidavit signed by the PWEA President, stating under oath that “[a]s of March 16, 2022, a majority (over 51 %) of PWCS’ certified employees have signed union cards supporting collective bargaining, authorizing PWEA to represent them, and confirming their request for the Prince William County School Board to adopt the PWEA’s resolution for collective bargaining.” The PWEA also filed a proposed resolution it wants the School Board to adopt.

Q8. Did the PWEA provide the School Board with signature cards for each employee?

No. Along with the affidavit the PWEA filed a blank, sample union card to illustrate what a majority of the employees completed. The PWEA did not file any employee’s signature or completed card in support of collective bargaining.

Q9. Which PWCS employees are seeking to bargain collectively?

The PWEA’s certification was filed on behalf of certified employees, meaning those employees licensed by the Virginia Department of Education or the Virginia Department of Health. In their proposed resolution, the PWEA describes the group of employees in the proposed bargaining unit as “all teachers, school counselors, nurses, specialists, librarians, ITRTs, school psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, and department chairs.”

Q10. Does the statute set forth any procedures for verifying the employees did, in fact, sign the union cards?

No. The statute does not establish any procedures for verifying employee support for the certification.

Q11. Has the School Board adopted any procedures for verifying employee support for the certification?

Yes. The full details are available on the PWCS School Board BoardDocs website.

Q12. Did the School Board adopt the collective bargaining procedure in an open meeting?

Yes. The school board’s meeting was open to the public. During the meeting, the Board did meet in a closed session to discuss with its attorneys and PWCS staff the legal requirements and procedures pertaining to the certification for collective bargaining filed by the PWEA (and to any certifications filed in the future). Virginia law specifically allows the Board to consult privately with its attorneys and staff members on legal matters. However, it is important to note that after the closed session, the Board received a presentation on the proposed procedures and voted to adopt them. Both the presentation and Board vote were open and accessible to the public and can be viewed online.

Q13. What do the procedures adopted by the Board provide?

The procedures, which are based on those adopted by Prince William County Government, require certifications to include (i) the name, (ii) current School Board position/classification, (iii) employee identification number, (iv) date of hire, (v) signature (or sufficient evidence of electronic signature), and (vi) date of signature. They also require evidence indicating that the person signing in support of the certification authorized the filing party to obtain certification on their behalf. If this information is not provided with a certification, the filing party can provide it to the School Board within 14 days. The full details are available on the PWCS School Board BoardDocs website.

Q14. Does PWEA’s certification require them to provide the hire date of employees?

No. The School Board’s procedures were designed to align with the same procedures adopted by Prince William County, which did contain the hire date. In fact, two groups of employees from the County’s fire and police departments submitted certifications, including original signatures and hire date, to the County. However, due to the timing of the adoption of the procedures following a PWEA request, the School Board notified the PWEA’s attorney that no one would be disqualified for not including date of hire.

Q15. Has the School Board received any public briefings on the topic of collective bargaining?

Yes, the School Board has received two public briefings on collective bargaining, both are available on BoardDocs. The first was on March 24, 2022, and the second was on June 1, 2022.