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Albemarle School Board votes to not adopt collective bargaining resolution

Educators at Thursday night's school board meeting held up signs as the board voted to not pass...
Educators at Thursday night's school board meeting held up signs as the board voted to not pass the resolution in a 4-2 vote.(WVIR)
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 10:50 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - More than 1,400 educators in Albemarle County hoping for more bargaining power received disappointing news at Thursday night’s school board meeting.

The collective bargaining resolution put forth to the school board at its March 24 meeting did not pass.

That resolution, which was crafted by the Albemarle Education Association (AEA), would allow educators and county school staff to be represented by the union when bargaining for pay and working conditions.

More than two-thirds of county school staff are on board with the collective bargaining resolution, many showing up at the meeting wearing red and holding signs in support of its passage.

“About 69% of licensed professionals in the county signed authorization cards, over 70% of transportation, bus drivers and assistants, over 80% of school nurses and many other support staff have signed authorization cards to make this happen,” said AEA Director Vernon Liechti.

During public comment, some sharing their support for the resolution were teary eyed, like school nurse Gayle Burt.

“So during this week of School Nurse Appreciation, during which you sent us that beautiful letter, detailing all the work we’ve done during the pandemic: vaccinating, contract tracing, staying late at night, supporting families through illness, even death some times, I ask that you back up your words with action and vote in favor of this resolution,” Burt said.

Even some students chimed in in support.

“Your job is to sit on this board and decide the fate of thousands of staff and students. It’s your job to take care of this county. Our community. And if you don’t want your drivers, custodians, food service workers leaving, perhaps they’ll go to the city schools where collective bargaining is almost guaranteed to pass,” said Maddox McIntire, a high school student in the county.

In a 4-2 vote, the school board voted to not adopt the resolution, many of them citing the vagueness of new legislation that allows for public sector workers to collectively bargain.

“As often is the case with new and poorly drafted legislation, the first adopters are likely to be embroiled in litigation and other challenges detracting from both our students and any meaningful efforts to support staff needs,” said board member Kate Acuff.

Jonno Alcaro shared in Acuff’s concern about legal precedent within the commonwealth in regards to collective bargaining.

“There’s no modern day case law on the subject of public sector collective bargaining. There’s no labor relations type of entity that provides oversight on elections, that make collective bargaining work in all the states that have it,” Alcaro said.

Katrina Callsen suggested finding a resolution to meet educators needs, while not adopting the resolution.

“I do believe in the process of discussing, communicating, coming to some kind of resolution together that is presented, that would be more the way that I would feel comfortable proceeding,” she said.

The board did unanimously vote for Superintendent Matt Haas to conduct research into alternatives to collective bargaining within 90 days.

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