FCPS starts effort to allow collective bargaining for school workers

Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Tina Williams speaks in support of collective bargaining for general county government workers in October (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax County Public Schools is moving to give its workers collective bargaining powers.

An FCPS webpage launched Friday (Dec. 17) explains that the school system is developing an ordinance establishing the scope and rules of collective bargaining, which will enable labor unions to negotiate pay, benefits, and working conditions for their members.

Work on the proposed draft ordinance is expected to continue until the end of January. The text could be released for public comment in February or March, Fairfax Education Association President Kimberly Adams told FFXnow.

A union representing FCPS teachers and support staff, including bus drivers, custodians, nurses, and cafeteria workers, the FEA says it is confident that the school board will adopt an ordinance allowing collective bargaining.

“We have waited for 44 years, and the time is now to pass a strong ordinance,” Adams said in a statement. “Our students’ learning conditions are our working conditions and we want to remain the school district that people love to work and learn in.”

Local government workers in Virginia had been prohibited from collective bargaining since 1977 until the General Assembly passed legislation allowing localities to authorize the practice during its spring 2020 session.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance for general county government employees on Oct. 19, but FCPS needs to create a separate policy for its employees. The school system has 24,839 full-time workers, according to its website.

The state law still prohibits government workers from striking, and even if FCPS adopts a collective bargaining ordinance, union membership won’t be required for employees, since Virginia remains a right-to-work state.

FCPS says it’s unclear how the introduction of collective bargaining will affect current employees and their pay, but the process for negotiating agreements in the future will be aligned with the school system’s annual budget timeline.

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, a union open to all FCPS teachers and other non-administrative, non-supervisory employees, says it has been working with FCPS to develop a resolution “that is inclusive and flexible for all members” since the 2020 Virginia law took effect on May 1.

“Throughout our sessions our bargaining team has fought for a broad and open bargaining scope that helps to establish school staff’s right to negotiate hours and scheduling, compensation, health, retirement, all working conditions and other benefits,” FCFT President Tina Williams said by email. “As we bargain to build power in our county, we will continue to fight to guarantee our members’ voices are included throughout  the entirety of the process.”

The FEA and FCFT are among several school employee organizations in a collective bargaining work group created by FCPS earlier this year. The group convened for the first time on Sept. 30 and is expected to continue meeting every few weeks through January.

“FEA has been at each session, ready to advocate for our member’s needs and build partnerships that achieve our interests,” Adams said. “We look forward to the final draft and a strong vote from our school board.”

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