Public workers who are not members of a union could be forced to have their contracts negotiated by unions under legislation proposed in the Virginia House of Delegates.
The legislation, House Bill 582, would repeal the current prohibition on exclusive representation, which means that a public employer could require that all workers in a specific working unit have their contracts negotiated by the union, even if some of the workers choose not to join the union.
The bill would create a Public Employee Relations Board, which would determine bargaining units and certify elections for the exclusive bargaining representatives of public employees. It also repeals a provision that guarantees a worker the right to vote with a secret ballot.
The bill is being sponsored by Del. Elizabeth Guzman, D-Dale City. Her office did not respond to multiple requests for comment by the time of publication.
Some House Democrats held a news conference with the Virginia AFL-CIO to announce the legislation.
Karen Conchar, a retired Fairfax County employee and the local SEIU treasurer, said in the news conference that this legislation is a matter of life and death because collective bargaining would likely prevent budget cuts, which she said have endangered safety.
Conchar said budget cuts have led to four deaths in Fairfax County.
“We could have come together to fight for the funding for that protective equipment and staffing needed ... to do their job safety,” she said.
The proposed legislation has received opposition from right-to-work organizations, such as National Right to Work (NRTW). NRTW President Mark Mix told The Center Square in an email that it would strip workers of their rights.
“This monopoly bargaining scheme strips government employees of the right to negotiate their own terms and conditions of employment,” Mix said. “Even a convicted criminal retains the right to choose his own representation, but now Virginia House Democrats seek to deprive government employees of the right. Under such a monopoly bargaining regime, individual workers are prohibited from even discussing basic workplace issues with their employer without triggering an unfair labor practice claim. And if that weren’t already bad enough, the bill would give union agents free reign to impose forced representation on workers through the coercive and abuse-prone ‘card check’ process where union organizers can bully or mislead workers into signing cards that are then used as ‘votes’ for unionization.”
In addition to harming workers’ rights, Mix said that the proposed legislation would also have a negative effect on government spending. He said that “monopoly bargaining powers” lead to wasteful work rules and a hate-the-boss mentality.
Mix also warned that giving unions more power could hurt the economy. He said the state’s current right-to-work protections helped Virginia outpace Maryland and the District of Columbia for job attraction; last year, Virginia was ranked the best state for business by CNBC.