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. 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 localities the option to adopt a collective bargaining ordinance for public employees. The local option is codified in Virginia Code§ 40.1-57.2 and has an effective date of May 1, 2021.
Section 40.1-57.2 provides that any collective bargaining ordinance 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. However, it also 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.
Only employees of the governing body, here the Board of County Supervisors, are eligible for inclusion in a collective bargaining ordinance. That is, employees who are subject to the authority and control of the Board of County Supervisors, either directly or through the County Executive or County Attorney. Moreover, employees of local elected constitutional officers and state employees, who are not subject to the authority of the Board of County Supervisors, are excluded from collective bargaining. Likewise, contractors, volunteers, inters and other individuals who are not employees, and therefore not a part of the personnel system, are excluded.
While the new state law does not mandate that a locality extend collective bargaining rights to its employees, it does require a locality that has not adopted such an ordinance to take a vote to adopt or not adopt an ordinance "within 120 days of receiving certification from a majority of public employees" in a self-identified bargaining unit. Since the Board of County Supervisors has not yet adopted an ordinance authorizing collective bargaining, the following procedure has been developed to guide any employee group that has an interest in self-identifying as a potential bargaining unit and submitting a petition for consideration as is allowable under the statute. Importantly, this procedure does not dictate or control any components of a possible future ordinance on collective bargaining.
Before deciding on whether or not to adopt an ordinance, the Board of County Supervisors would like to hear more from employees. Over the summer months, the county will be collecting data from employees through a collective bargaining working group, organizational survey and employee outreach efforts. That data will be posted on this page when it is available. In the meantime, both the public and employees alike are welcome to leave their questions here regarding collective bargaining for county employees. The questions and answers will be posted on this site.