Charlottesville City Councilors debate major changes in collective bargaining plan

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 11:38 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville city council is working on a plan to give city employees the right to organize. Now, there is debate over which employees should be the first to have these bargaining rights.

As the plan stands now, police officers, firefighters, and transit employees would be the first group given collective bargaining rights.

“I support the police in the city. I support doing what we can to fill the positions that need to be filled and pay them well, and so forth. At the same time, I’m not sure they should be part of this first three that are out there as bargaining union units.” City Councilor Brian Pinkston said, “It’s my sense that the community would prefer for the police to be later - if at all.”

The reasoning behind starting with only three unions is because the city says it’s not equipped to handle all groups at once. It says it chose these three because they are all public-facing.

“We acknowledge that certainly there are other unions, but we were putting in a time a phasing a timeframe for accomplishing that. I don’t want to be locked into the narrative that we are supporting just three unions and don’t support collective bargaining for the rest of the employees. That is absolutely not correct,” Interim City Manager Michael Rogers said.

Another change that was discussed is adding bargaining power to health benefits - something the plan currently does not include.

“By separating benefits out of it, we are not looking at the true cost of the employee or the true pay of what the employee gets. And there might come a time that we have more employees that have dependents that want to have a better benefit package,” City Councilor Sena Magill said.

This is the first year localities can accept collective bargaining agreements after a change in Virginia code. City Councilor Michael Payne says the way the Charlottesville ordinance is written now falls behind other municipalities.

“If we look at the other localities in Virginia, it is an objective fact this would be the weakest in the state,” Payne said

A new version of the plan is expected to be voted on during the October 3, 2022 meeting.

“I believe that our employees deserve a stronger collective bargaining ordinance than what is being presented. I think discipline and workplace should be part of it. That is how progressive change is often made in organizations is through you against. I don’t think the employees are going to be trying to ask for anything that is going to hurt the city,” Magill said.

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