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IW says ‘no’ to unions

Isle of Wight’s Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Aug. 19 to pass a resolution opposing collective bargaining with county employees.

A May 1 change in state law ended Virginia’s 1993 ban on public sector unions bargaining collectively with local governments, and now allows individual counties, cities, towns and school boards to opt in to the bargaining process by passing a resolution.

The city of Alexandria became Virginia’s first locality to take advantage of the new law — passing an ordinance in April to allow bargaining in anticipation of the then-upcoming changes to the state code. But Isle of Wight, upon being briefed on the issue in July, took the opposite side and asked County Attorney Bobby Jones to draft a resolution that would explicitly prohibit Isle of Wight’s administration from negotiating with unionized groups of county employees.

The resulting ordinance, Jones said, would not prevent any group of county employees from organizing and coming before the Board with a petition asking that they be allowed to bargain collectively.

“What this does is puts the world on notice that it has been determined by this Board that that is not the desire,” Jones said.

Jones said he wasn’t aware of any interest at present among county employees in unionizing.

“I do know that in other localities it’s taking place, Virginia Beach for one,” he said.

“I think it’s also consistent, in a sense, that it helps support our state’s position right now as being a right-to-work state,” said Carrsville District Supervisor Don Rosie.

Right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to join a union as a condition of obtaining or keeping a job. Virginia has been a right-to-work state since 1947, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The dissenting vote on the resolution came from Hardy District Supervisor Rudolph Jefferson.