by Tyler Arnold
The City of Alexandria in Virginia is considering an ordinance to provide collective rights to workers, but the current proposal would not allow employees or the city government to challenge the determination of certain votes.
As it is currently written, the proposal would allow a labor relations administrator to determine the results of a majority vote in the following areas: a petition for certification without an election, certification by representation election and decertification. No person, whether it be employees or the government, would have the right to challenge this determination.
The administrator would be given this authority because he is meant to be neutral and to be the arbiter of disputes, Mark Jinks, the city manager (pictured above), told The Center Square. According to the ordinance, the administrator must be experienced as neutral in the field of labor relations and cannot be categorized as a representative of the city or any employee organization. The administrator would need to be appointed by the city and confirmed by the city council.
Although the administrator is meant to be neutral, the lack of avenues to challenge a vote determination has received some criticism.
“By going so far as to block potential challenges into what union tactics may have been used to obtain the so-called evidence of union support, Alexandria City officials demonstrate this is being undertaken purely to reward union officials at the expense of the voting, taxpaying public and independent-minded city workers,” Mark Mix, the president of National Right to Work Committee, told The Center Square.
The city manager and some staff are currently working on the specific language to the ordinance, which it will present to the city council this week. The council will review the proposal in a meeting next week.
Currently, Jinks said the ordinance backed by the city manager’s office, only plans to grant unions the right to bargain wages and benefits. However, he said unions are pushing for an ordinance that would expand that power.
The administration of the ordinance would cost the city about $875,000 for additional staff, but he expects collective bargaining to yield higher wages and greater benefits, which would cost the city additional money. City staff said wage increases for public school employees could cost the state up to $22 million, according to Alexandria Living Magazine.
Mix discouraged the city from adopting any collective bargaining ordinance.
“The government should not be granting unelected and unaccountable union officials the ability to impose compulsory, monopoly bargaining powers on public employees at all, let alone through the abuse-prone ‘card check’ process,” Mix said. “‘Card check’ organizing allows union agents to pressure and often mislead workers to sign cards that are later counted as ‘votes’ for unionization.”
Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation to permit public sector collective bargaining if a local government affirmatively approves it. Other localities have also begun the process of crafting ordinance proposals, which can be in effect starting May 1. Collective bargaining allows a union to have sole bargaining representation over a given working group if approved by the majority of the workers, even if some workers in the group would prefer to forgo the representation.
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