Legislation Impacting Collective Bargaining Defeated

February 22, 2022

On February 21, three bills engrossed by the House of Delegates that would impact the ability of local governments to enter in collective bargaining agreements with union or employee representatives were passed by indefinitely in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on votes of 12-3. As previously reported, enacted legislation from the 2020 session permits Counites, Cities, Towns, and School Boards to allow their employees to engage in collective bargaining via ordinance or resolution, but still excludes constitutional officers and their employees. Any such ordinance or resolution authorizing collective bargaining would be required to provide a process for the certification and decertification of exclusive bargaining representatives but is otherwise very permissive and provides flexibility to local governments to determine the best processes for their communities. The following bills defeated in committee on February 21 would have imposed additional conditions or clarifications on this process:

HB 336 (Freitas), as originally drafted, would provide that for a bargaining representative to be certified as an exclusive representative, at least 51 percent of the public employees in a collective bargaining unit must vote for certification of the bargaining representative through a secret ballot election conducted by the governing body of the locality, and a secret ballot election shall be conducted very two years to confirm majority support for the bargaining representative. This certification requirement would also apply to preexisting bargaining representatives. The bill also provided definitions of bargaining representatives, collective bargaining units, elections, and employee associations.

HB 337 (Freitas) would prohibit any employer of public employees authorized to engage in collective bargaining from entering into a collective bargaining agreement to compensate any public employee or third party for an employee organization’s or union’s activities. Further, if a union’s activities infringe on an employer’s time and resources, the union must compensate the employer at a fair market value rate. The bill provided for enforcement by the Attorney General and created a cause of action for public employees to remedy potential violations. The provisions of the bill would preempt inconsistent local laws and regulations.

HB 883 (Byron) would remove the authority for a locality, by a local ordinance or resolution, to recognize any labor union or other employee association as a bargaining agent of any public officers or employees or to collectively bargain or enter into any collective bargaining contract with any such union or association or its agents. The bill would impose additional conditions on procurement practices for state agencies.

The fate of these three bills follows similar actions by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on January 31 to pass by indefinitely on identical votes of 12-3 two bills that would impose additional conditions on collective bargaining agreements or public employee union activities. SB 374 (Obenshain) would repeal the requirement that (i) that contractors and subcontractors under any public contract with a state agency or certain localities to pay the prevailing wage rate; (ii) authorize any public body, when engaged in procuring products or services or letting contracts for construction, manufacture, maintenance, or operation of public works, to require bidders to enter into or adhere to project labor agreements on the public works projects; and (iii) authorize a locality to recognize any labor union or other employee association as a bargaining agent of any public officers or employees or to collectively bargain or enter into any collective bargaining contract with any such union or association or its agents. SB 721 (Obenshain) would require consent by public employees authorized to engage in collective bargaining before union or employee association dues are deducted from the employees’ pay directly by their employers. The bill also would allow public employees to stop paying union or employee association dues at any time and gives public employees an annual opportunity to reconfirm that they want to continue union or employee association membership and pay such dues.

These actions, coupled with another taken by the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee on January 17, effectively end legislative efforts on the issue of collective bargaining for this session.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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