The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted to direct staff to draft a collective bargaining ordinance that will be presented to the board in a closed meeting, with a public hearing on October 13. On Tuesday, the board’s three Republican supervisors voted against moving forward with drafting the ordinance, but the motion passed six to three.
At the beginning of discussion, Chair Phyllis Randall (D) addressed common concerns she had heard about collective bargaining. She said participation in unions under the ordinance wouldn’t be mandatory, and employees wouldn’t be required to pay dues if they weren’t members.
She also noted that although the county had recently improved conditions for its employees, it hadn’t always been that way.
“The fact is, we were a county that was not paying our employees what they were worth by a long shot in the district,” Randall said. “The fact that it got that bad in Loudoun County made me question: would it have got to that point if we had a union?”
Randall argued that collective bargaining would allow the county to treat its employees like adults. But she said unions had to do the work of organizing and attracting members.
Supervisor Matthew Letourneau (R) said his biggest concern was that collective bargaining would end a merit-based pay system the county currently uses.
“That goes away when you have a system in which everyone is on schedule that is bargained and negotiated and there is no flexibility with that,” he said. “Every board that I have been part of that has had employees bring concerns to the board has taken those very seriously, and so has the county administrator.”
Supervisor Caleb Kershner (R) worried that if some employees didn’t want to participate in a union, that could lead to a situation where a minority of workers who decided to unionize could make decisions on behalf of a majority who didn’t decide to unionize.
Supervisor Julie Briskman (D) said opposition to collective bargaining came from fear that it would empower women and minorities. She said, “This is potentially going to give women power, this is potentially going to give women more pay, this is potentially going to give minorities more pay, and the sky is falling for certain people who want to keep our society ruled by white supremacy.”
Randall replied, “It is the epitome of white privilege to not know what white supremacy actually is. This is not about white supremacy. I’m sorry, but we have an incredibly diverse staff and we have a very incredibly diverse senior staff. We have probably more women than any senior staff you will ever find to be quite honest, and the head of our H.R. department is a black woman.”
Randall said, “I support this because I support county staff having the right to choose.”
The board also voted unanimously to allocate $12.4 million of its American Recovery Plan Act funds for extending broadband into parts of the county without access. The Loudoun Times reported that the county will also apply for a grant of matching funds from the Virginia Telecommunications Initiative.
“What we learned in the pandemic is that broadband is becoming a utility. It is not a luxury. Tele-health, tele-learning, tele-work, is all done online now,” Randall said. “These things would have happened, but the pandemic let us know how important this is and accelerate it.”
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