The Virginia General Assembly has passed legislation that paves the way for Virginia counties, cities, and towns to adopt local ordinances or resolutions authorizing collective bargaining with labor unions on behalf of public officers and employees. The bill is awaiting Governor Ralph Northam’s signature.

The Code of Virginia currently provides that no state, county, city, or town has the authority to recognize or bargain with a labor union or employee association for public employees. Under the proposed law, counties, cities, and towns will have the authority to adopt a local ordinance or resolution authorizing recognition of a labor union or employee association as the bargaining agent for public officers and employees, collective bargaining, and execution of collective bargaining agreements. Any such ordinance or resolution must include procedures for the certification and decertification of labor unions as bargaining representatives, and an opportunity for labor organizations to intervene in the process for designating any such exclusive bargaining representative.

While the proposed law creates a landscape for possible public-sector collective bargaining for the first time in Virginia, it is important to read the “fine print”:

  • The term “county, city, or town” includes any local school board and its employees.
  • “Constitutional officers” — City Treasurers, Sheriff, Commonwealth Attorneys, Court Clerks, and Commissioners of Revenue and employees of such officers — are excluded from coverage under the law.
  • The Commonwealth of Virginia is not included as a covered employer and continues to be prohibited from recognizing and bargaining with any labor union on behalf of state employees.
  • Even if a majority of public employees in any proposed bargaining unit petition their employer to adopt an ordinance authorizing bargaining, the governing body is not required to adopt such an ordinance.
  • Any bargaining ordinance or resolution that is adopted by a governing body may not restrict the governing body’s authority to establish budgets or appropriate funds.
  • The proposed law prohibits public employees from striking. Employees who engage in strikes or willfully refuse to perform their jobs would be deemed to be terminated from employment, and would not be eligible for employment in any position with the Commonwealth or any political subdivision of the Commonwealth.

Please contact a Jackson Lewis attorney with questions about this or other labor and collective bargaining issues.