The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will get its first salary increase in eight years, starting next January.
The current board voted 8-2 last night (Tuesday) to raise the pay to $123,283 for a supervisor position and to $138,283 for the chairman — slightly lower than the ranges that were proposed on March 7.
Based on staff calculations, the approved increase for board members is in line with what general county employees received, on average, in merit and market rate adjustments since the board last got a raise in 2015, according to Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.
“Supervisor compensation should be set at a level that would enable anyone to serve regardless of personal circumstances. To advance that goal, I think, is appropriate,” Foust said before putting the motion up for a vote.
The vote came after a public hearing that lasted over two hours, with some speakers becoming emotional as they shared stories of how they’ve struggled with the area’s rising cost-of-living or how employee vacancies and hiring challenges have affected county services, from parks to support for foster care families.
Aside from one Braddock District resident who suggested they would “not be out of line,” considering inflation over the past eight years, all the speakers voiced opposition to the originally proposed raises that could’ve increased supervisor salaries up to $130,000 and the chairman’s up to $145,000.
“Too many are just getting by, and others are on the verge of falling into crisis,” Carolyn Bivens said. “Respectfully, in my opinion, the case has not been made for making the Board of Supervisors positions full time. More importantly, a 35 to 45% increase would be viewed as tone-deaf in this environment.”
Some said they support the board getting pay raises, but the amounts advertised were “insulting” when the county is only proposing 2% market rate adjustments for workers in its next budget, rather than the 5% that was forecast.
Other jurisdictions in Virginia are advertising MRA increases of up to 6-9%, according to Fairfax Workers Coalition Executive Director David Lyons.
He acknowledged that Virginia law requires a different process for adjusting the compensation of elected officials than for other public employees, but the proposal created a perception “that you care more about yourselves than you do your workers.”
“What we do have is a shortage of human service workers. We have a shortage of cops. We have a shortage in solid waste collection that is causing the county to contract out good jobs,” he said. “And in the case of all these jobs, citizens will suffer as the vacancies grow, as the quality drops and as real experience keeps going out the door. That’s why this proposal struck people as wrong.” Read More
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors isn’t holding a public hearing on its proposed salary increases until Tuesday (March 21), but some county workers have already made their opposition known.
A union representing over 2,000 county government employees criticized the proposal as a blow to workers, whose projected pay raises aren’t expected to be fully funded in the county’s next budget.
“Despite our calls for wage fairness for county employees, it appears the County has another priority — raises for politicians,” SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax President Tammie Wondong said. “A meager 2% raise combined with the crushing weight of wage compression has left us feeling devalued. When employees have to work multiple jobs to get by or can’t afford to live in the county, it’s clear change is needed.”
With 33 years of work for the county under her belt, Wondong says the disparity between what the board is considering for itself compared to employees illustrates the need for “a union contract to achieve pay fairness.”
The Board of Supervisors approved collective bargaining in October 2021, but the Fire and Rescue Department is the only unit to officially elect a union representative so far.
Put forward by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust on March 7, the raises would push the salaries for board members up from $95,000 to $124,000-130,000 per year and from $100,000 to $140,000-145,000 a year for the board chair.
The high end of those ranges would amount to pay bumps of nearly 37% for supervisors and 45% for the chair. Both positions last got raises in 2015.
Foust, who’s retiring at the end of December, says higher compensation will encourage candidates to run for supervisor, a position that carries full-time commitments but is treated as a part-time job in Virginia.
As I leave, I know it is critically important that we continue to attract great candidates from all backgrounds and stages of life to serve on the Board. The opportunity to serve is itself very rewarding. However, I believe it is in the best interest of the County that Supervisor compensation be set at a level that will enable anyone to serve regardless of their personal circumstances, and not just those who are wealthy or have other sources of income. I believe that increasing Supervisor pay for the first time in 8 years will advance that goal. I recognize that others have raised concerns and I look forward to the public hearing that will be held on March 21.
“I hope that through my service I have demonstrated that I care very much about the residents and employees of Fairfax County,” he said in a statement to FFXnow.
However, the challenge of affording housing, child care and other living expenses that some supervisors mentioned during their March 7 meeting also poses an obstacle to other county workers, like teachers and police, Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President David Walrod said.
About 1 in 7 Fairfax County employees can’t afford to live where they work, according to a 2021 analysis by The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (TCI), a Richmond-based think tank. Read More
The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously on Thursday (Mar. 9) to give public school teachers and staff collective bargaining rights.
The resolution gives employees the right to organize and elect a union that can negotiate labor contracts, including pay, benefits and work conditions.
The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation in 2020 allowing local governments to give collective bargaining rights to public workers. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution for county employees the following year.
After more than a year of work, administrators with Fairfax County Public Schools presented a 22-page draft resolution to the school board in December.
Karl Frisch, the school board’s Providence District representative, introduced the motion during a school board meeting, saying collective bargaining will positively affect staff retention and student success.
“Everyone wins when teachers and staff have pay increases, better working conditions, reduced turnover, and workers have a seat at the decision-making table,” Frisch said.
The resolution states that the school board retains the right to determine budgets and can take necessary actions to carry out its mission during emergencies. It also guarantees workers the right “to engage in informal conversations and interactions about workplace and organizational issues while on duty” without facing coercion or intimidation.
According to Virginia law, bargaining unit members are not allowed to go on strike.
Any negotiations with budgetary or financial implications need to be initiated by Sept. 1 and agreed upon by Nov. 1 to be included in the following year’s budget.
FCPS will 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
Through a majority vote, employees in the bargaining units can select an employee association to represent them. The association, with majority support, becomes that unit’s exclusive bargaining agent after the school board certifies the election results.
Substitute teachers and temporary employees are excluded from bargaining units. However, they could request to be recognized as a unit or seek inclusion in one of the existing units after July 1, 2023.
During his remarks, Frisch highlighted what he said are the causes of recent staffing challenges faced by the school system.
“Longstanding teacher and school staff shortages are driven by low pay relative to peers in other professions with similar credentials, inadequate or uneven professional support, and challenging work conditions.”
Sully District representative Stella Pekarsky seconded the motion and said because of the vote, schools in the county will be a better place to learn and work in the coming years.
“With this vote, there should be no doubt where FCPS stands. We stand for our employees to have a voice and a seat at the table. We stand to ensure our schools can recruit and retain staff who provide a world-class education for all students,” she said.
In a release, Fairfax Education Association President Leslie Houston said passing the resolution is the first step to ensuring that FCPS employees “will have a seat at the table and not be on the menu.”
“The educators and staff in Fairfax County Public Schools will finally be able to make decisions that is best for their well-being and the well-being of their students,” Houston said.
While advocating for collective bargaining, the FEA joined forces with the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) to form the Alliance of Fairfax Educational Unions (AFEU), which will presumably seek election to represent the new bargaining units.
According to the school system, FCPS will secure a labor relations administrator (LRA) in the next few weeks to manage the certification and election processes.
Workers at the regional nonprofit FRESHFARM, which operates three farmers markets in Fairfax County, voted to unionize with United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 earlier this week.
FRESHFARM worker Ariana MacMartin told FFXnow that the hope is a union can help workers at the farmers markets negotiate for better pay and more job security, as well as hopefully reduce turnover.
“We’ve asked for higher pay and better benefits, but we realized we couldn’t affect change without a union,” MacMartin said.
MacMartin said the specific demands are still in negotiation.
The unionization effort includes about 25 workers who staff and operate FRESHFARM’s 28 markets in the D.C. area, including sites at the Mosaic District, Reston and Oakton, according to UFCW Local 400.
Employees filed for a union election in December. Ballots were distributed on Jan. 18, and National Labor Relations Board officials counted votes on Feb. 8.
While other workers have had to fight tooth and nail for unionization, MacMartin said FRESHFARM has been an extremely agreeable partner in the process.
In a statement, FRESHFARM said:
FRESHFARM is pleased to announce that our farmers market staff have voted to unionize. The organization strives to create the best farmers markets in the region, and having a professional, well-trained workforce is front and center of these efforts. FRESHFARM management is enthusiastic about working with a collective bargaining unit committed to our mission and shared values of improving our workers’ conditions to ensure we continue to best serve our region.
MacMartin said her hope is that the negotiations and improvements can help inspire other farmers market workers.
“I want to unionize every farmers market,” MacMartin said. “My hope is our message spreads to strengthen the working class and we can have our needs met.”
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
Firefighters, medics and other Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department employees will have a union represent them in the county’s first collective bargaining negotiations for public workers in over 40 years.
Over 800 FCFRD workers participated in a 13-day election last month to determine whether to have union representation for contract talks with the county government, which will establish pay, benefits and other working conditions.
The only union in contention, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2068 won with a decisive 797 votes, or 95.2%. The only other option on the ballot was to have no representation, which received 40 votes, the union announced Friday (Nov. 18).
With 1,533 members, Local 2068 represents firefighters, fire marshals, mechanics, medics and emergency dispatchers employed by Fairfax County. 837 eligible voters — 54.6% — cast a ballot in the election from Oct. 12-31.
“This is a monumental day for the members of our department,” IAFF 2068 President Robert Young said in a news release. “But it’s also a monumental day for all Fairfax County employees, and all of the residents of our community. We’ve shown that when Fairfax County workers come together…we have the power to have a say in the decisions that impact our lives and the lives of the communities we serve.”
Last week our Election for Bargaining Representation was officially certified – Local 2068 won with over 95% of the vote (!!!)
Huge shoutout to the members of our department who voted – we look forward to negotiating/working w/ the County – Full media adv. attached#UnionStrong pic.twitter.com/MYwts1QdEd
— Fairfax Firefighters (@IAFF2068) November 20, 2022
After Virginia ended a 44-year ban on collective bargaining for public sector workers in May 2021, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance on Oct. 19, 2021 granting employees the right to organize, elect union representatives and participate in union activities.
Under the ordinance, the county will recognize separate bargaining units for the fire department, police and other county workers. Elections haven’t been held yet for the police and general government units.
With negotiations expected to begin in early 2023, Local 2068 says one priority will be addressing the staffing shortages that have affected the fire department and other county agencies, from police to the park authority and public library system.
Local 2068 says first responders have been forced to work mandatory overtime, adding 12 to 24 hours on top of their standard 24-hour shift “sometimes with little to no notice.” The union says its members have performed over 80,000 hours of “holdovers” — equal to 3,333 24-hour days.
“Having members work such excessive mandatory overtime isn’t just bad for their health, but it’s a potential hazard for the community members we serve,” Young said. “We look forward to addressing this issue at the bargaining table.”
Collective bargaining negotiations will last up to November 2023. A resulting agreement won’t take effect until July 1, 2024, when the county’s fiscal year 2025 begins.
Some issues could be addressed earlier as part of the upcoming fiscal year 2024 budget process, which will begin in earnest when County Executive Bryan Hill presents his proposed plan on Feb. 21.
Young said Local 2068 will advocate for merit and cost of living pay increases as well as funding for automated ambulance loaders — stretchers where the legs automatically fold up as the device is rolled into a vehicle.
“We’re the only jurisdiction in the region that doesn’t have access to these tools, tools that not only help prevent members from being injured, but also help us deliver faster and safer service to the community,” Young said.
Fairfax County has officially allocated millions of unspent revenue from the previous year’s budget for items like restrooms for school stadiums and a boost of the county’s hiring program.
At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 11), the board voted 7-1 to allocate $7.5 million in carryover funds to help install permanent restrooms at 15 Fairfax County Public School outdoor high school stadiums.
“At its heart, this is a matter of equity. No matter which school a student goes to in Fairfax County, it is expected they receive not only a high-quality education, but that they are provided high-quality, accessible facilities as well,” Board Chairman Jeff McKay wrote in a statement.
The school board has already agreed to pitch in half of the funds needed for the new facilities.
The board also approved an additional $2 million for a “comprehensive hiring incentive program,” which could grant up to $15,000 in bonuses for new hires in critical county positions. In total, the reserve includes more than $4 million, but exactly where the money will go remains to be determined.
“A portion of all the funding could be used for all agencies, but we do not know exactly how much of the allocation will be towards hiring incentives until the County Executive reports on the design of the program,” McKay’s office told FFXnow.
The move comes as the Fairfax County Police Department and other public safety entities face historic vacancy rates and staff shortages.
Tammie Wondong, a 32-year county employee and president of SEIU Virginia 512 Fairfax, lauded the board for amending the carryover package to create a hiring incentive program instead of funding raises for top executives.
A recent “benchmark study” of the county’s executive and managerial positions found salaries were generally below market rate. Staff recommended that the pay scale be simplified and adjusted to be more competitive at the Board of Supervisors’ personnel committee meeting on July 26.
“The Board clearly heard employees’ voices because they changed the carryover package to invest in a hiring incentives reserve, instead of executive pay,” Wondong said. “However, the county must do more to ensure fair pay for their hard-working employees who got our community through the worst of the pandemic.”
The union delivered hundreds of petitions urging the county to maintain transparency around the use of carryover funds, relieve wage compression, and ensure all county employees are engaged in future benchmark studies.
Dave Lysons, executive director of the Fairfax Workers Coalition, said the county is no longer competitive for many jobs, adding that its current vacancy rate is 13% overall with a 17% rate in public works.
“Fairfax County is no longer competitive for these jobs…We can’t continue like this,” Lyons said.
Other allocations include roughly $25 million for pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements, part of an overall commitment to fund $100 million in projects over six years.
Supervisors had requested that funds be provided specifically for new sidewalks to Huntley Meadows Park and trail improvements in Gum Springs, but those items didn’t make the final cut.
“The sidewalks were not a part of this current package but may be considered as part of the ongoing $100M commitment to pedestrian safety,” McKay’s office said by email.
Among other needs, the county also allocated $175,000 to design and construct a picnic shelter, ADA-accessible pathway and picnic tables and benches for Justice Park in the Mason District.
The first union election that Fairfax County employees have been allowed to hold in over four decades is now underway.
With an election for representation that launched Monday (Oct. 10), firefighters, medics, fire marshals and other Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department workers will determine whether the union IAFF Local 2068 can represent them in upcoming contract negotiations with the county government.
Voting is being conducted electronically through the independent company BallotPoint and will continue until Oct. 31, according to IAFF Local 2068, which has a membership of approximately 1,500 FCFRD employees.
“Our department is filled with intelligent, highly qualified and highly trained people,” IAFF Local 2068 President Robert Young said in the news release. “We’re first responders who love our jobs, love serving the Fairfax community, and want to continue to ensure that we are providing the best fire and medical emergency services possible. Bargaining allows us to do just that, while also ensuring that the concerns of our members and our community are heard and treated equitably.”
Earlier today we issued the following Media Advisory re our Collective Bargaining Election –
“At the end of the day, this is about creating an equitable and collaborative relationship..We’re happy to have the overwhelming support of the community who made this possible.”#ffxva pic.twitter.com/ec5p5q0Vzh
— Fairfax Firefighters (@IAFF2068) October 10, 2022
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a collective bargaining ordinance on Oct. 19, 2021, giving county government employees the power to have a union negotiate their pay, benefits and working conditions for the first time in more than 40 years.
Public sector workers had been barred from collective bargaining in Virginia since the state Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the General Assembly could prohibit the practice. The court cited the Dillon Rule that limits local governments’ powers and has become a source of frustration in Fairfax County.
Localities finally got the authority to adopt ordinances recognizing labor unions and giving employees the ability to collectively bargain in May 2021, when a bill passed by state lawmakers and signed by then-governor Ralph Northam in 2020 took effect.
Under its approved ordinance, Fairfax County will recognize separate bargaining units representing general county employees, the fire department, and police, an approach that some workers’ groups had opposed.
Since no other unions have been accepted for firefighters, the only options in the current election are to approve Local 2068 as the bargaining unit or “no one,” organizer Jeremy McClayton told FFXnow by email.
General county employees and the police will hold their own elections. They both have multiple unions vying to serve as their bargaining unit, according to McClayton.
Fairfax County Public Schools has yet to grant collective bargaining rights to its employees, though a resolution for the school board to adopt is being developed.
On the county side, the Board of Supervisors confirmed Sarah Miller Espinosa as its labor relations administrator on June 7. The administrator serves as a neutral party tasked with establishing union election procedures, overseeing negotiations, and mediating disputes.
If Local 2068 wins, the union will begin contract negotiations with the county in the spring.
Young said in the press release that, with collective bargaining, the union hopes to create “an equitable and collaborative relationship” between workers and the county.
“It’s about ensuring that all of our employees are heard, that they’re all a part of the decision making process, and that they all have a sense of ownership of their careers and lives,” Young said. “We’re happy to have the overwhelming support of our elected officials, and all the members of the Fairfax community who made this election for representation possible.”
With the national shortage of commercial drivers continuing to strain services from trash collection to school buses, the Town of Vienna plans to increase salaries and offer bonuses to bolster its maintenance workforce.
As part of a new incentive program, the Department of Public Works recommends that the town increase its entry-level salary for maintenance workers to $55,000 and offer a $2,000 hiring bonus to new employees with a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
Maintenance workers — who handle tasks from paving and plowing roads to maintaining sewers and parks facilities — currently get a minimum annual salary of $40,354 or $44,490, depending on the exact position, according to Vienna’s pay plan for fiscal year 2022-2023.
The incentive program would adjust the salaries of existing employees with CDLs accordingly “to address compression and years of service,” town staff wrote in a request for $80,000 to fund the plan in the FY 2022-2023 budget.
The program would also give an annual $2,500 bonus to employees who maintain a Class A CDL and $2,000 bonuses to employees who maintain a Class B license.
Per the staff memo, the proposed hiring bonuses are in line with what Fairfax County, the Town of Herndon, and other Northern Virginia jurisdictions are offering. However, they fall short of what workers can get from the private sector, where incentives range from $4,000 to $10,000.
Vienna’s public works department is seeking $80,000 for the program in a $1.28 million set of adjustments to the FY 2022-2023 budget, known as carry forwards.
“Carry forward money is available because the Town had a surplus in FY 2021-22 of approximately $720,000,” town staff said. “The surplus is due to a combination of several General Fund revenues exceeding budget plus salary savings due to position vacancies during the year.”
Intended to address needs identified after the budget was adopted in May, the package includes $100,000 for building maintenance, $15,000 for landscaping at the Bowman House, and $30,000 to switch 60 town cell phones from T-Mobile to AT&T, among other items.
Stricter regulations for massage salons that the town council approved on Aug. 29 will require a new temporary employee to help enforce the new rules, according to staff. The town estimates that the position will cost $40,000.
“During the 2024 budget cycle staff will recommend whether or not this requires a permanent full or half-time position,” the memo says.
The Vienna Town Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed carry forward plan during its regular meeting at 8 p.m. tonight (Monday).
Workers for the federal contractor that runs call centers for Medicaid, Medicare, and other services took their fight for better wages, benefits and work conditions to the streets of Tysons last week, garnering some honks of support from passing drivers.
Over two dozen Maximus employees marched from Tysons Galleria to the company’s new corporate headquarters at 1600 Tysons Blvd on Friday (June 17) to deliver a petition calling for livable wages and affordable health care.
Garnering 11,853 signatures, the petition also expresses support for workers at call centers in Mississippi and Louisiana who organized strikes this spring as part of an ongoing campaign to unionize with the Communications Workers of America.
“A lot of these folks are just asking for living wages,” said Christian Ohuabunwa, who helps process disability benefits for veterans at a call center in Houston, Texas. “We’re asking for affordable health care benefits, that you don’t have to decide between eating and sending your kid to the hospital. We’re asking that they truly listen to us and try and make some changes.”
Previously based at Reston Station, Maximus employs 37,000 people and commands $4.25 billion in revenue, according to its website. In early May, the contractor reported $1.18 billion in revenue for the second quarter of fiscal year 2022, a 22.7% increase over the previous year.
Maximus told investors that growth in its federal services segment was driven by “expected contributions” from recent acquisitions, including a $1.4 billion deal for Veteran Evaluation Services Inc. (VES) that closed in June 2021.
Ohuabunwa started working for VES in 2018 and says he “felt a sense of camaraderie” in the company, which he notes was veteran-owned.
That changed when Maximus took over. On top of paying a $6,000 deductible under the company’s health care plan, Ohuabunwa says his frustrations include a lack of communication between leaders and employees and the elimination of incentives to process questionnaires that determine whether a veteran qualifies for benefits faster.
“Now that Maximus has taken over, there’s now a backlog of cases,” he told FFXnow. “Prior to this, we did not have that, because people were enthusiastic about what they did, so work got done. Now, there’s no encouragement for you to go that extra step.”
Maximus says it continues “to look for ways to improve health benefit coverage and affordability,” noting that the deductible for its free individual coverage plan dropped from $4,500 to $2,500 in April. Read More