The Prince William County School Board has once again moved the deadline for the county’s teacher’s union to present the signatures it collected in support of collective bargaining, this time saying the union has until May 4 to present its union cards for verification.
In a statement from the entire School Board released Wednesday, the board says it’s made multiple concessions on how it could verify the Prince William Education Association’s signatures, which the union says represent a majority of the school division’s state-certified personnel.
Only once the division receives and verifies some form of what the PWEA has, the Board says, will the School Board then have to decide whether it wants to pursue collective bargaining with the union.
The PWEA kicked off its formal signature drive in January, and on March 18, PWEA President Maggie Hansford submitted a sample union card and a sworn affidavit saying the union had collected the requisite signatures needed to form a collective bargaining unit.
But the School Board, which failed to adopt a formal signature-approval process before receiving Hansford’s submission, then passed a process closely aligned with the county government’s method, which required the union to submit their union cards for verification to the school division. The Board also lengthened the period during which the PWEA could collect signatures from 90 days to 120.
Union leadership declined to turn the signed union cards over to the division’s human resources department, citing fears that members could face retaliation from school or division administration for backing the union. Instead, they offered to turn them over for verification by a third party. The School Board balked at that proposal, saying it didn’t want to turn over large amounts of sensitive employee data to an outside entity.
“The PWEA’s parent organization, the Virginia Education Association (VEA) in Richmond, is currently in possession of the employee’s signature card,” the Board’s Wednesday statement reads. “Over the past few weeks, the School Board has worked diligently and in good faith with the VEA on a mutually agreeable procedure for verifying the signatures required by the School Board’s verification procedures.”
Neither PWEA nor VEA representatives could immediately be reached by InsideNoVa Wednesday.
According to Board Chair Babur Lateef, the Board’s most recent proposal is for the union to present the union cards to the PWCS administration and division counsel. Then over the course of a few days, with lawyers from both sides present, the two sides would go through each card to verify that they are from employees who currently work for the division in positions covered by the proposed bargaining unit and that they were signed within the 120-day timeframe.
After that, the union would keep the cards and all the school division would keep are positions and dates of signature. Lateef says the School Board can ultimately decide what bargaining unit or units it might want to work with, so it will need to know how many employees in each position signed, but not which employees. The state law passed in 2020 that made public sector bargaining possible gives School Boards or other governmental bodies the right to reject collective bargaining or adopt a resolution laying out what can be bargained for and with whom.
“In yet another good-faith effort to complete this verification process, the School Board offered to retain only the job titles of those employees who signed in support of collective bargaining,” the Board’s statement reads. “The VEA has rejected all of these proposals.”
After a series of proposed deadlines have come and gone, the School Board now says the union now has until May 4 to submit its signatures. Lateef called it a “fairly firm” deadline.
“They’re refusing, hard ‘no’ on giving us the petitions … We’re not keeping the cards,” he told InsideNoVa. “The only thing we’re recording is dates and titles … The School Board is committed to a transparent process. We are committed to working with our teachers and employees and staff.”