SEIU: Loudoun’s Public Employees Already Organizing

Some county government employees are already getting ready to ask the Board of Supervisors authorize unionization, according to the president of the Service Employees International Union Virginia 512 that counts more than 200 Loudoun County employees among its members.

Under state law, state and local governments are not allowed to recognize any union or collective bargaining. But with a new state law signed in April and going into effect in May 2021, localities may elect to recognize collective bargaining representatives, allowing unions to negotiate on behalf of employees. Employees of constitutional officers, in Loudoun including the sheriff, commonwealth’s attorney, treasurer, commissioner of the revenue and clerk of the Circuit Court, are excluded.

Loudoun supervisors have already voted to allow unions with more than 100 Loudoun members to hold open houses twice a year in several government buildings. But County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said the ball will be in employees’ court once the new law goes into effect.

Under the new state law, public employees will also be able to force a vote on whether to allow unions. If a majority of eligible employees in a certain class ask the local governing body for a vote, that body has 120 days to hold a vote on whether to allow collective bargaining, although nothing can force the local board to approve collective bargaining.

SEIU Virginia 512 President David Broder said workers are already organizing to ask the county board for that vote after May 1, and that his phone has been “pretty routinely ringing off the hook.”

“Our members play a critical role in advocating for budgets that invest in good jobs and invest in quality services,” SEIU Virginia 512 President David Broder said. The chapter covers both Loudoun and Fairfax, and Broder said it has also played a role in the pandemic response, including partnering with the Board of Supervisors to make sure frontline workers have the protective equipment they need. They’ve also pushed to make sure workers have job flexibility such as telework or flexible schedules care for both the public they serve and their own families and selves.

“We know that during a pandemic there are tough choices to be made, and I think from that angle, it’s really critical just for the success of the county that workers have a seat at the table, because nobody knows better than frontline workers which services are needed and where we can be flexible,” Broder said.

Randall said the new law has some problems, in that it excludes state employees and constitutional officers.

“There are some departments where you would have a county employee and a state employee working side by side, like in the Health Department or court services,” Randall said. That would mean people working in the same office—sometimes with similar job titles—would be under different rules for negotiating their employment contracts.

Broder said that battle is still being fought.

“The legislation to repeal the ban on collective bargaining this year I think was among the most historic pieces of legislation that the General Assembly passed this year, at the same time recognizing that it’s an incremental step,” Broder said. But, he said, collective bargaining “is a fundamental human right,” and he said he expects expanding on that right to be a political campaign issue in 2021.

And Randall pointed to her own family’s experience with unions, including for her grandfather, a Pullman porter, and her father, a United States Postal Service employee.

“The whole question about unions is very, very valid, you can let anything get out of control, so they’re valid questions,” Randall said. “I don’t know how much it will cost. Those will all be things we have to take a look at. I know that before we did the compensation and classification study, we had some pretty unhappy employees in Loudoun County just because of the pay, and we were losing employees at such a rate it cost us money to retrain people.”

The possibility of unionization has already impacted other considerations, such as discussions by county supervisors about whether they should take over governance of the public library system. County Administrator Tim Hemstreet told the board’s finance committee on Oct. 13 that having a separate Library Board of Trustees, but funding coming largely from the Board of Supervisors, could complicate matters if library staff unionize.

It also comes after supervisors approved an overhaul of the county’s pay scales and job descriptions, facing concerns that Loudoun’s public employees were underpaid and overworked when compared with other Northern Virginia jurisdictions. Firefighters, too, have also seen pay bumps to bring them in line with other jurisdictions, and are particularly expensive to replace.

7 thoughts on “SEIU: Loudoun’s Public Employees Already Organizing

  • 2020-10-29 at 1:33 pm
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    FCPS teachers staged a sick out at the urging of their local union.

    When you hear ANYONE say that unions are simply there to bargain a contract, THEY ARE LYING.

    The BoS doesn’t care about you. Your children. Your financial health. Your safety.

    They’re only interested in serving their special interests. And will do everything within their power to put the needs and wants of those people above yours.

  • 2020-10-29 at 3:24 pm
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    Heaven and Ayn Rand Forbid. Letting employees advocate for fair wages, affordable benefits and a workplace without abuse and retaliation. How can the County allow such a travesty to move forward?

  • 2020-10-29 at 3:59 pm
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    “Loudoun’s public employees were underpaid and overworked ”

    Baaaaah-haaaaa-haaaa.

    Nobody has ever stated that sentence with a straight face.

  • 2020-10-29 at 4:24 pm
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    How much money will be put in the union leader feeding trough and who will evaluate the relative benefits once in place. Will LCPS see a shut down because too many Asians were admitted to the academy of Science? Will LCPS see a shut down because not enough of every race or religion or economic level or language spoken is honored in the top ten percent of the class? During my 8 years on the school board including chairing the finance committee I rarely saw any comparative benefit teachers received for the substantial dues taken from them every month except for legal representation which an adroit school board could and should provide anyway. 🙂

  • 2020-10-29 at 4:53 pm
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    Look up SEIU corruption for yourselves.

    This would NOT be positive for our Loudoun County.

    Currently, Loudoun employees have fair wages, good benefits and workplace protections.

    SEIU can’t bring anything positive to the table.

  • 2020-10-29 at 5:18 pm
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    Working in county government except for first responders is about as safe as it gets as opposed to working in a uranium mine so why do office workers need collective bargaining? Shouldn’t they have the confidence that their performance and education will carry the day?

    Now, when it comes to the dangerous professions like police, fire, hazmat, medical, mining and so on, having a union is not such a bad thing except when it keeps bad people on the job. Then, it’s not so good. Collective bargaining keeps bad police and bad teachers on the job and America suffers for it.

    Also, look what unions did to America’s automobile industry; damn near destroyed it. I am old enough to remember when Honda’s, Datsun’s (for you young folks, that’s the early name for Nissan’s products in America), and Toyota’s first came to America because American cars were mechanically unreliable, overpriced, and had terrible fuel economy. Why were American made cars so terrible? The demands of automobile labor unions drove them to that condition because costs had to be cut to be able to cover labor union demands.

    Now, if I hear one more person talk about how unions established child labor laws and overtime and safety in the workplace, my head is going to explode. That news is so old it’s really not worth mentioning anymore, but then again, I haven’t checked a high school American history book to see if unions and the initial important things they accomplished are even mentioned as opposed to the text being full of pop culture stuff.

    I don’t see any reason why white collar workers in county government need a union and I sure don’t want to see union representatives in taxpayer funded buildings during normal business hours using taxpayer funded resources to conduct their recruiting activities. If someone wants to meet with a union person, they can meet them outside of a taxpayer funded building and after normal business hours. Union representatives in a taxpayer funded building conducting union business during normal business hours are depriving me, the taxpayer, of the services I am paying those county employees to provide and execute. In fact, union representatives should not even be on any taxpayer funded property at any time of the day or night. That open courtyard by the Loudoun County Government Building is taxpayer funded property. Union representatives should not be allowed to use that area without a permit and only after normal business hours.

    Now, the blue collar county workers who are using heavy duty machinery such as snow plows and other stuff like that, yes, I am okay with them being represented. Again, I think it is inappropriate for them to meet with union representatives in any taxpayer funded facility during normal business hours.

    I wonder how long it will be before the quality of the county government employees starts to decline once this union business gets entrenched. That said, if Loudoun County ends up with the same form of government that Fairfax County government has, it won’t take long. That’s another discussion for another time but it must say something that Fairfax County’s form of government is not used by any other county in the Commonwealth and what it says is not good.

  • 2020-10-30 at 4:08 pm
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    The only benefit of having union is to drive up wages and benefits, and it’s usually not what the union promises employees. I’ve negotiated CBA’s with increases below the market COLA. Couple that with the durs employees have to pay (usually 2 hours of pay per pay check for hourly employees) and the benefits minimized.

    The down side is the elimination of rewards for high performing employees, loss of communication with supervisors and a hostile environment between pro-union employees and pro-company employees. Add to that the corruption, not just financially but also internally. I was allowed to fire an employee without challenge in exchange for retaining an employee who was a union official. The union also through a shop steward under the bus because he was running for a union officials position.

    Despite all of that our current BOS will support the union and employees will be hood winked into voting for it.

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