IOW opposes federal union mandate

Published 3:59 pm Saturday, February 20, 2010

ISLE OF WIGHT—County officials are asking Congress to reject legislation that would mandate collective bargaining for state and local public safety personnel.

“While on the surface this may sound fairly innocent, in reality that is a huge issue as it relates to state and local governments — particularly within states like the commonwealth of Virginia where you have right-to-work laws and collective bargaining is not allowed within the public sector,” said Don Robertson, a spokesman for the county.

Thursday night, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution opposing the legislation, which the board says “would provide a single class of employees with special rights and privileges.” Bills are under consideration in committees in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

“It is indicated that there is a strong likelihood, with the current Congress, that this bill will pass, requiring collective bargaining,” said interim County Attorney A. Paul Burton.

The legislation would allow the Federal Labor Relations Authority to review existing collective bargaining laws in all 50 states and would give the authority the power to mandate changes to existing policies, Burton said.

He also said the county would have two years to comply if the legislation passes.

“It would force us to literally abolish Virginia’s right-to-work law and we’d have to repeal our laws that currently say that you cannot engage in collective bargaining in the public sector,” Burton said.

Employees who would be covered under the law include police, fire, emergency medical services workers and animal control officers.

Phillip Bradshaw, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., opposes the bill. Bradshaw also said that U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., indicated in a conversation late last year that he did not support the legislation.

Robertson said the county plans to send the resolution to members of Virginia’s congressional delegation and to the Virginia Association of Counties to have it circulated statewide.

“We were trying to take a pre-emptive strike and get this resolution out,” he said.