The Virginia House of Delegates advanced a bill that would end the state prohibition on public employee collective bargaining to its third reading Wednesday, but the sponsor refused to answer questions from the other side.
“We had that one-hour hearing, and, at this point, I mean, we’ve had more than enough time to read about this bill,” said Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Dale City, the primary sponsor of House Bill 582. “I think that we’re acting in good faith here.”
Collective bargaining rights permit unions to have exclusive representation over workers in a working unit, even if a worker chooses not to join the union. This prevents the worker from negotiating his own contracts. HB 582 would grant public-sector unions this authority, but it would exempt elected officeholders and their employees. The bill also would establish a Public Employee Relations Board, which would establish rules for collective bargaining in the commonwealth.
Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, raised some questions about the bill and criticized Guzman for refusing to respond to his questions.
“I would think that when we’re drastically changing something, it would be nice if the patron would be willing to answer a couple of questions,” Freitas said on the House floor.
Although Guzman would not answer the questions, Freitas asked why the state Legislature and its staff would not be granted the same rights if this were good legislation. He also asked whether this bill would force a public-sector worker to join a union or pay union dues. The Supreme Court ruled that practice unconstitutional in 2018.
Freitas said that he is not on the Committee on Labor and Commerce and was not able to attend the hearing to ask his questions at that time.
“I think these are valid questions, but apparently the patron is not willing to answer any of them,” Freitas said.
The state Legislature is considering other bills that would affect labor, including legislation that would fully repeal the state’s right-to-work protections in the private sector, which currently prohibit contracts that require a person to join a union as a condition of employment, and legislation that would permit contracts in the private sector that would require a person to pay partial dues to a union for representing them in contract negotiations even if that person is not a union member.