Vote on Prince William schools workers’ collective bargaining expected Wednesday

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The Prince William County School Board is expected to adopt a resolution Wednesday night allowing for collective bargaining among school employees, but the details of that resolution are still up in the air.

Two weeks ago, the School Board unveiled a draft resolution prepared by outside counsel and school division counsel. School Board Chair Babur Lateef said he anticipated that a bargaining resolution would pass, with a majority of the board’s eight members speaking favorably of the potential bargaining process. But union leaders from the Prince William Education Association took issue with several of the draft resolution’s provisions, setting up what could be a debate amongst board members Wednesday night.

Chief among the PWEA’s concerns was the proposed timeline for collective bargaining. Under the proposed resolution, a union would first need to submit signatures from 30% of one of the two allowable bargaining unit employee groups. An election would then be held and the union would need a majority of the votes to represent the bargaining unit in the next round of budget negotiations.

But PWEA President Maggie Hansford told InsideNoVa that such a timeline would foreclose any possibility of collective bargaining ahead of the fiscal 2024 budget, which the School Board will adopt early next spring. Instead, she said, teachers and other school employees would have to wait until the fiscal 2025 budget to have the kind of input that collective bargaining entails. Because PWEA had submitted signatures from 30% of the school system’s certified employees in order to force a collective bargaining vote from the board in the spring, Hansford said, PWEA should be able to move right to a union election.

At the Oct. 4 School Board meeting, she said she was looking “forward to the important conversations that need to be had, because we still have some work to do with regards to the resolution.” She also asked that the language prohibiting school employee strikes be stripped from the resolution, calling it redundant because public sector strikes are already prohibited by Virginia law.

Other teachers speaking during the meeting’s public comment period also criticized a provision in the draft resolution that would prohibit future bargaining on the “nature and scope of the work performed by the School Board employees.” Under the original resolution, the School Board would retain a number of non-negotiable rights, including the ability to set job qualifications, terminate and discipline employees subject to a grievance process and to establish “work rules, policies, procedures and standards of conduct.”

On Tuesday, School Board Chair Babur Lateef told InsideNoVa that there would be changes to the original draft proposal come Wednesday’s School Board meeting and that he still anticipated a vote on the final resolution. He wouldn’t describe how negotiations had gone and what changes there might be.

“The [school system’s] lawyers are still working with the PWEA lawyers, and so that’s all ongoing,” Lateef said. “I know PWEA’s working through their lawyers and working with [Superintendent LaTanya] McDade … and I know PWEA’s had an open dialogue with the administration.”

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