Collective Negotiations Lead to Debate With Prince William School Board

Bestinau got that-

Disputes have already arisen over the Prince William Education Association’s attempts to form a collective bargaining unit with Prince William County Schools.

Members of the Prince William Education Association at the school board meeting on March 16, 2022. (Courtesy of Jared Foretek/Insidenova)

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Disputes have already arisen over the Prince William Education Association’s attempts to form a collective bargaining unit with Prince William County Schools.

Association leaders have so far refused to submit the signatures they collected in support of collective bargaining, opting instead to rely on an affidavit confirming the signatures’ authenticity. So far, the school board says an affidavit is not enough, and on March 24, the board voted for a process to verify the names and job titles of those who support collective bargaining.

At the March 16 school board meeting, PWEA president Maggie Hansford said her association had gathered enough signatures to form a collective bargaining unit and activate the 120-day deadline for the board to pass a collective bargaining resolution. to approve or reject.

At the time, she declined to say who would include the bargaining unit, but on March 18, she filed an affidavit with the division swearing that “a majority (more than 51%) of PWCS-certified workers … have signed union cards representing collective bargaining.” support, authorize PWEA to represent them, and confirm their request to the Prince William County School Board to pass the PWEA’s collective bargaining resolution.”

A certified worker is anyone whose job requires state certification, including teachers, nurses, specialists, counselors, librarians, psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, and more. Bus drivers, maintenance personnel and catering employees are not considered certified employees.

Hansford said in a statement to InsideNoVa that PWEA gathered nearly 5,000 signatures to form the collective bargaining unit, though she declined to say why the group was against handing them over. Instead, she said, the PWEA would be open to having the signatures verified by a third party or letting the division leadership and the PWEA go through union maps on a “neutral” site and without names.

“The statute does not require any verification process at all. In effect, the language gives workers the right to decide the negotiating unit and the majority to elicit a vote on a resolution,” Hansford said. “Nevertheless, we are willing to work with the school board on a verification process.”

Lateef said there were problems with providing personal employee information to a third party and the board wanted to adhere to a process almost identical to that of the province.

The state law permitting collective bargaining in the public sector, which went into effect last year, does not contain a process for negotiating unit verification. And unlike some other places in Virginia, Prince William’s school board did not preemptively pass a resolution outlining the process by which it would verify the PWEA’s certification. Board chairman Babur Lateef said it was simply not a priority as the division hired a new inspector last year, finalized a new strategic plan and budget and tackled learning loss from school closures in 2020 and 2021.

However, at last week’s meeting, the board passed a resolution stipulating that the verification would include the division’s administration verifying the names on PWEA’s voting cards. Lateef said it was similar to the process the Board of County Supervisors uses to verify county police and fire fighting units and will not require PWEA to go back to collect rental date information from all signatories.

“We’ve informed PWEA that because we didn’t have a trial we won’t force you to get new signatures. Whatever you have, we’re happy with it, we’re fine, we’re not… obliging you to do more information,” Lateef told InsideNoVa on Tuesday. “All we want is to see the petitions. We want to see the petitions … and the cards, and we want to make sure we validate the signatures, which we think is reasonable.”

After the vote, PWEA members took to social media to ignore the verification requirement.

In a video posted to Facebook, George Hampton Middle School teacher and PWEA organizer Jerod Gay said the association had repeatedly asked the school board for advice on what to accept to no avail.

“Actually, they refused to give any guidance, telling the union, ‘You just need to collect the cards and follow the language of state law.’ So we did that,” he says. “It seems pretty safe to put aside the idea that what the school board did last… [week] was anything but a sneaky attempt to undermine collective bargaining for teachers and school staff in Prince William County and stab our union in the back. And that is exactly what they have done.”

Gay also said the board demanded information about the rental date. According to Lateef, the board has made it clear to PWEA attorneys that it does not require hiring date records.

“We believe the process should be with integrity,” said Lateef. “We want to know that our community supports this idea, and we want to ensure that the PWEA we work with is committed to a level of integrity to move forward.”

Ultimately, the board of directors leaves the decision of whether or not to verify the bargaining unit to Chief Inspector LaTanya D. McDade. If McDade decides not to verify the unit, the 120-day timeline will be suspended.

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