The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday delayed their consideration of a new ordinance that would permit the county to engage in collective bargaining discussions with labor unions and public employee associations.

County staff will present the ordinance to the board’s next business meeting on June 1.

The ordinance would allow county employees, such as firefighters, maintenance workers, mental health nurses and librarians to enter into collective bargaining with the County.

“SEIU Virginia 512 is heartened by this decision which demonstrates the board’s support of nothing less than full and meaningful bargaining rights for employees,” said Claire Liu, spokeswoman for SEIU Virginia 512, in a release.

Loudoun County Chapter SEIU Virginia 512 is a labor group representing county employees.

On April 20, the board voted 6-3 to move forward with the matter. Supervisors Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin), Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) voted against the motion.

Beginning May 1, Virginia counties, cities and towns will be permitted to enter into collective bargaining agreements with labor unions as a bargaining agent for public employees following legislation passed in March by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

Constitutional officers and their employees are excluded from coverage.

The board authorized eight new full-time positions for collective bargaining support, according to an April 20 staff report. All of the positions and $300,000 in recurring contractual costs to support and administer a bargaining structure are fully funded in the fiscal 2022 budget.

Should the board vote not to adopt a local ordinance or resolution authorizing collective bargaining, those resources could be reallocated to other uses.

The traditional collective bargaining model, which the board voted upon, would require the highest level of support costs, including all of the resources allocated in the fiscal 2022 budget, and the potential for additional staffing and/or operating support costs necessary in future years.

Four additional full-time positions are estimated to be needed in fiscal 2023, according to the April 20 staff report.

Last month, Letourneau questioned what else is left for the board to address with a new ordinance. He said the board has already addressed employee pay increases, benefits and the classification system without a collective bargaining agreement.

Buffington and Kershner — both of whom said they prefer the meet-and-confer model — were concerned about the potential controversies and drawbacks that could arise from a collective bargaining agreement.

Sixty eight percent of Virginia voters said they support allowing collective bargaining rights for public employees, according to a Dec. 10, 2020 study by The Wason Center at Christopher Newport University. Twenty five percent said they oppose it.

SEIU said it supports the board’s effort, but urged supervisors to reject the three ordinance proposals that deny workers the right to collectively bargain over wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Instead, SEIU said it is urging the board to pass an ordinance that protects workers’ rights and facilitates productive relationships between county employees and management.

“The essential workforce deserves the same comprehensive rights that protect tens of millions of workers across the United States,” Tuesday’s release stated. “We look forward to passing a final ordinance draft in June that truly reflects what workers need and deserve in Loudoun.”

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