More than a year after Fairfax County government workers got collective bargaining rights, a proposal could extend the option to their public school counterparts.
After months of work, Fairfax County Public School administrators presented a draft resolution to the school board last week that would let employees organize and elect a union to negotiate labor contracts, setting terms for pay, benefits and work conditions.
The 22-page document was developed by a workgroup of FCPS leaders and 17 different school employee associations.
“Over the course of a full year of meetings, totaling over 60 hours together and untold number of hours of prepwork by workgroup members, we reached consensus on the framework for a resolution,” Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) President David Walrod said at the public hearing on Dec. 15 public hearing.
The proposed resolution guarantees workers the right to discuss workplace issues and engage in collective bargaining activities without facing coercion or intimidation. It also asserts that the school board has the authority to determine budgets and funding and can “take whatever actions may be necessary to carry out its mission during emergencies.”
If approved, FCPS would recognize separate bargaining units for:
- Licensed instructional staff, including full and part-time teachers, librarians and counselors
- Operational support employees, such as assistants, custodians, food service workers and bus drivers
- Administrators and supervisors, including principals and program administrators
Substitute and temporary employees are currently excluded from collective bargaining, but after July 1, 2023, they could seek inclusion in one of the existing units or file a request to be recognized as their own unit.
Walrod and other employee group representatives urged the school board to adopt the draft resolution.
“FEA agrees with the strong resolution presented to the FCPS School Board and the community,” Fairfax Education Association President Leslie Houston said. “Our number one priority was to ensure all FCPS employees were represented at the bargaining table. This resolution must be passed swiftly and intact.”
With the narrow adoption of House Bill 582 in 2020, Virginia opened the door for public workers to collectively bargain for the first time in 44 years.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution for county employees on Oct. 19, 2021, and last month, fire department workers became the first group to elect a union representative for negotiations.
Leaders of SEIU Virginia 512, a union representing general county employees, said they support FCPS workers also getting the right to unionize and negotiate their work contracts.
“The Fairfax County employees of SEIU believe that every working person deserves the right to join a union with their co-workers and bargain for a better future for all families,” SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax County President Tammie Wondong said. “When FCPS educators and support staff have a seat at the table, kids and families throughout our community will succeed. That’s why we fight for Unions for All.”
The school board hasn’t set a timeline to vote on the resolution, but any contract talks won’t apply for the fiscal year 2024 budget, which will be proposed on Jan. 12. According to the draft resolution, any negotiations with financial implications need to start by Sept. 1 and be agreed to by Nov. 1 to be included in the next budget.
School Board Chair Rachna Sizemore-Heizer, an at-large member, said by email that the board will continue working on the collective bargaining resolution after FCPS finishes its winter break on Jan. 3:
I appreciate the efforts of the working group consisting of many stakeholders that worked hard to come to consensus on the draft collective bargaining resolution. I also appreciate the time and perspectives of those who came out to speak to the school board at the collective bargaining public hearing. It is vital to hear from our community on this important topic. I will take the comments under advisement as the school board continues to work on collective bargaining after the winter break.
Photo courtesy David Broder/Twitter
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