The Prince William Education Association and the Prince William County School Board announced that the signatures submitted in support of collective bargaining for county school employees had been verified, ending a months-long saga over the signatures.
The verification now triggers a clock on the School Board, forcing the body to take some sort of action on collective bargaining by July. The Board can vote to recognize the entire bargaining unit, some of it, or decline to engage in collective bargaining at all.
“The process was conducted by a joint staff of Prince William Public Schools administration and Prince William Education Association/Virginia Education Association staff. All employee information was kept confidential,” a statement released by the union said. “After a process that was fair and coordinated by both parties, PWEA has obtained a verified majority of union authorization cards from PWCS licensed staff.”
The two sides had been at odds on how exactly to verify the union cards PWEA had collected without disclosing individual identities of those who signed, something union representatives could expose them to retaliation from school and division administrators. After an extended back-and-forth, the two agreed last week that only non-identifying information would be retained by the school division.
PWEA members have spoken frequently at Board meetings and to media outlets about the need for collective bargaining with the school division, saying better wages, working conditions and educator input on division policy would improve the school division for students and families as well as employees. They’ve also said that bargaining rights would help the division keep pace with competing localities in terms of hiring teachers amid a nationwide teacher shortage.
The union’s push should have some backers on the School Board, in particular Occoquan District Member Justin Wilk and Occoquan District Member Lillie Jessie, who both supported a more lenient process for signature verification. Gainesville District Member Jennifer Wall, on the other hand, has expressed skepticism about collective bargaining, while Board Chair Babur Lateef has said the effort hasn’t been a major priority of his as the division has adopted a new strategic plan and budget, returned to full-time in-person learning and navigated the COVID-19 pandemic.