Prince William County Public Schools

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  • Statement by the Prince William County School Board Concerning Collective Bargaining

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    The Prince William County School Board is dedicated to supporting the achievement of the Vision 2025: Launching Thriving Futures Strategic Plan. A key component of the Strategic Plan is promoting a positive climate and culture, where PWCS staff will be empowered, supported, and engaged with a strong sense of belonging. The School Board is committed to supporting every employee, and continuously seeks ways to improve employees' working conditions, pay, and benefits, including by providing a 7% increase in salaries on average for the next school year.

    Further, the School Board is committed to transparency, fairness, and adherence to the rule of law. Recently, a group of Prince William County Public School employees petitioned the School Board seeking to achieve Collective Bargaining. The School Board has applied these key commitments as it worked to establish a process for the submission of an employee certification.

    Background

    Collective bargaining enables employees to negotiate with their employers through a chosen bargaining representative to establish various contractual terms and conditions of their employment. Virginia has expressly banned collective bargaining for public employees since 1977. In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed a law allowing local governments and school boards to engage in collective bargaining with their employees.

    The law passed by the Virginia legislature is very short and contains few requirements. It does require any school board receiving a proper certification from a majority of employees in a group appropriate for collective bargaining to take a vote within 120 days on whether to allow or deny those employees' request to bargain collectively.

    PWEA Petition

    On March 18, 2022, the Prince William County School Board received a cover letter, affidavit, proposed resolution, and blank "union authorization form" from the Prince William County Education Association (PWEA). On that same date, PWEA requested that the School Board vote to adopt a resolution authorizing collective bargaining within 120 days pursuant to state law. At that time the PWEA did not provide the School Board with any employee signatures from which it could confirm that a majority of the employees in the prospective bargaining unit - licensed employees - were in support.

    School Board Adopts Certification Process

    The new Virginia law provides no guidance on how localities or school boards should verify that a majority of employees in a particular group have certified their support for collective bargaining. Accordingly, the School Board met on March 24, 2022, to adopt procedures for verifying certifications.

    The procedures adopted by the School Board align with those previously adopted by the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, and employee groups in the County submitted employees' signatures to the Board of Supervisors in accordance with those procedures.

    The School Board understood that the PWEA did not have access to those procedures before filing its certification. As such, the Board included several provisions designed specifically to provide more lenient standards for verifying the PWEA's current certification. This included accepting signatures collected within 90 days of the certification date (versus 60 in the County's procedure).

    In addition to the added flexibility provided for the PWEA's certification in the initial procedures, the School Board amended the procedures on April 6, 2022, to address additional concerns raised by the PWEA leadership. Specifically, the School Board amended the certification procedures to: (1) make clear that PWEA did not have to provide the employee's date of hire information, (2) extend the timeframe for submission of the names, signatures, date of signature, and employee identification number to the School Board, and (3) allow PWEA to submit signatures collected 120 days before the certification filing date instead of 90.

    Consideration of PWEA Petition

    The PWEA's parent organization, the Virginia Education Association (VEA) in Richmond, is currently in possession of the employee's signature cards. Over the past few weeks, the School Board has worked diligently and in good faith with the VEA on a mutually agreeable procedure for verifying the signatures required by the School Board's verification procedures. Those procedures are designed to confirm that each employee who signed a card (1) is currently employed by PWCS, (2) is in a position covered by the PWEA's certification, (3) signed within the 120-day timeframe, and (4) constitutes a true majority of the employees in the proposed bargaining unit.

    In lieu of providing the signature cards to the School Board, which the VEA had opposed, the School Board asked the VEA to bring the signature cards to the PWCS Central Office for verification by PWCS employees. PWCS staff (who are not principals or other administrators) would then review the signature cards and verify the employee ID number, name, position, and date of signature on the card. The VEA did not want the School Board to retain any personally identifiable information concerning those employees who signed cards. The School Board agreed to retain only the position and date of signature for each employee who signed. This proposed process would not allow the School Board to keep a list of the employees who signed in support of collective bargaining, and the School Board would have no way to identify those employees.

    In yet another good-faith effort to complete this verification process, the School Board offered to retain only the job titles of those employees who signed in support of collective bargaining.

    The VEA has rejected all of these proposals.

    The School Board believes in being transparent with its employees and the community concerning matters as transformative and fundamental to the employer‐employee relationship as collective bargaining. But the VEA's current insistence that the School Board is not permitted to retain evidence of that verification process is untenable, as the School Board has made many concessions to address both the PWEA's and VEA's concerns. While the procedures asked for signatures to be turned in on April 7, 2022, the School Board remains available to begin the verification process if the VEA agrees - by May 4th - to the reasonable and good-faith compromise the School Board has offered above, which allows the Board to retain the non-identifiable job title information of those who signed cards in support of collective bargaining.