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The Virginia Board of Education held a public hearing last week on new draft standards for history and social studies (via VDOE/YouTube)

Fairfax County’s teacher unions expressed relief after new state-proposed history standards were rejected by a governor-appointed board late last week.

On Thursday evening (Nov. 17), Virginia’s Board of Education voted unanimously to again delay approving new history standards drafted by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).

The proposed standards had numerous admitted mistakes, errors and typos, and was radically changed from a 400-page working draft first publicly released over the summer.

The new document was also significantly shorter. A longer “framework” document which will include information on how to teach the material will be released next summer, per the Washington Post.

“We are pleased to see that the Board of Education has heard the voices of teachers, students, parents, and community activists,” Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) President David Walrod said. “The draft of standards presented [Thursday] was hastily assembled, with multiple new versions being released in a matter of days.”

Among the most discussed changes in the draft standards were omissions of both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Juneteenth as holidays. They also described Virginia’s indigenous peoples as America’s “first immigrants,”

The draft also eliminated racism in America as a central theme to be taught in many grades, while removing instances of teaching students about culture and government outside Europe and the U.S.

The board’s rejection came after a four-hour public hearing where a number of speakers, including Walrod, called the new standards a “whitewashing” of history.

The VDOE first released this draft less than a week before the board was scheduled to vote on it, leading members to complain about the short timeframe for reviewing such large changes.

The approval had already been postponed from August after a previous draft was similarly riddled with mistakes and errors. That draft was also about 400 pages long, compared to the 57-page document this time around. Read More

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Fairfax County Fire and Rescue engine ladder (file photo)

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.”

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.

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Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department (file photo)

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.”

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.”

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Morning Notes

Flowers and plants line tables on the side of Franconia Road in front of Edison High School for the athletic boosters’ spring flower sale, which runs through at least Memorial Day (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Starbucks Workers Vote Down Union — “A streak of unionizing at Starbucks has been broken, with workers at a store in Springfield, Virginia, voting against the union.” [NPR, Twitter]

Last Day for Donations — The donation drive to help Ukrainians that the Northern Virginia Regional Commission organized is coming to an end today. Donations can be dropped off in locations in Fairfax County, Alexandria, Arlington and other locations. [Twitter]

Homes are Hot in Dunn Loring — “The Dunn Loring area was the hottest in the Sun Gazette’s Fairfax County coverage area in terms of home-buyer interest over the past month, according to new data.” [Sun Gazette]

Clean Up a Tysons Roadway — “The Great Falls Group @SierraClub will pick up litter & debris on 1.32 miles of Jones Branch Dr, Tysons Corner. Come out to meet & mingle with other Club members, & help clean up a roadway! Litter bags will be provided.” Pickup is on Saturday, 4/23, 9 a.m.-11 a.m.  [Twitter]

County Wants Input on Connector Changes — “Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold a virtual community input meeting, Wednesday, April 20, 2022 at 7 p.m on Fairfax Connector proposed service changes for October 2022. The public is encouraged to give feedback on the proposed changes via an online survey (survey begins Wednesday, April 20, 2022), email, mail and by phone through May 6, 2022.” [Fairfax County Government]

First County Poet Laureate Tenure Ends — “#FairfaxCounty, it’s been an honor to be your first poet laureate. I wrote this poem to mark the end of my tenure and delivered it at tonight’s Board meeting. Thanks for trusting me to serve, @artsfairfax !” [Twitter]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 67 and low of 47. Sunrise at 6:33 a.m. and sunset at 7:47 p.m. [Weather.gov]

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