Legislation that would have exempted employees of local school boards from the prohibition on striking and from termination of employment for striking did not make it past the deadline for bills to crossover between the House and Senate. HB 1780 (Carter) was left in the House Labor and Commerce Committee without being acted upon. The bill was similar to legislation filed by the same patron during the 2020 General Assembly regular session, though the current version is narrower in scope in that it only applies to school board employees, instead of all public employees except law enforcement. According to Commission on Local Government’s Fiscal Impact Statement, costs to local governments resultant of enactment of HB 1780 and a strike by school board employees would potentially include the hiring of substitute teachers and other staff to keep school systems operational during a strike, potential reductions in state Basic Aid if a strike reduced the number of teaching days or teaching hours below 180 days or 990 hours, and community wide impacts such as lost wages as parents struggle to balance work with unexpected childcare needs. All of these costs could vary depending on the number employees striking and the length of a strike.
The ability of school board employees to strike should be viewed in the larger context of K-12 instruction during the pandemic. Conversations over returns to in-person instruction and employee safety involving employee associations and local school boards continue to take place in Virginia and in other states. Legislation enacted from the 2020 General Assembly session authorized local governments to permit collective bargaining for their employees by local ordinance effective May 1, 2021, but specifically maintained the prohibition against striking for public employees, irrespective of any such local ordinance. For now, the prohibition on public employee striking remains the law in the Commonwealth.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett