(The Center Square) – The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors took a big step in its effort to grant collective bargaining rights to county employees and one supervisor’s rhetoric went so far as to accuse the opposition of white supremacy.
The board voted 6-3 along party lines to direct county staff to draft an ordinance proposal for a collective bargaining policy. A final draft would still need to be approved by the board before any change would go into effect.
Collective bargaining rights allow workers to vote on whether to grant their union exclusive representation over a given working group in most negotiations. If a majority of workers in a working group vote in favor of the exclusive representation, all workers in that working group would be subject to that decision, even if they voted against it. A worker could still decline to join the union and no worker will be forced to pay union dues.
Supporters of collective bargaining rights tend to argue it will lead to higher salaries and better benefits for workers. Opponents, however, argue it creates a monopolization of representation and drives up costs for taxpayers.
Discussion over the motion got heated when Supervisor Juli Briskman accused collective bargaining opponents of white supremacy.
“The reason the sky is falling for some people in Loudoun County right now is because this is going to potentially give the little people power,” Briskman said. “This is potentially going to give women power. This is potentially going to give women more pay. This is potentially going to give minorities more pay. And the sky is falling for certain people who want to keep our society ruled by white supremacy.”
Even some supporters of collective bargaining rights on the board thought Briskman’s characterization was out of line.
Board Chair Phyllis Randall, who is black, said the issue has “nothing to do with white supremacy.” She accused Briskman, who is white, of demonstrating the “epitome of white privilege” by not knowing “what white supremacy actually is.”
“Little people will have a chance to say what they want to say, but that’s all little people: little brown people, little black people, little white people, whoever wants to talk,” Randall said. “If you make everything about race, then nothing is about race.”
The vote received pushback from the National Right to Work Committee. The group’s vice president, John Kalb, said it would deprive workers of their rights.
“Union bosses and their handpicked politicians on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors are seeking to deprive county workers of their right to pick their own representation in the workplace, and instead plan to give union bosses the power to force those employees under monopoly bargaining power regardless of whether county workers approve of the union,” Kalb said. “Additionally, monopoly bargaining will further disenfranchise the taxpayers whose dollars ultimately pay for public services and instead give much of that power to unelected union officials.”
The board will hold a public hearing regarding the draft ordinance Oct. 13.
Localities have started to introduce collective bargaining policies after a state law passed, which granted local control over such policies. Previously, collective bargaining was prohibited for public employees.