Friday, February 28, 2020

Collective Bargaining Update

This is the time of session where things get confusing if there are bills that are similar but not identical. Of course, there is no better example of similar but not identical than the two versions of the collective bargaining bills.

The Senate version of the bill (SB939) is an opt-in bill. Local employers would need to pass a local ordinance agreeing to participate in a collective bargaining arrangement with their employees before workers would have the right to bargain. The House version of the bill (HB582) allows employees to organize and require their employers to participate in collective bargaining. The House version also includes all state employees and establishes an Employee Relations Board at the state level to oversee collective bargaining. Obviously, the VEA and our partners in the labor coalition want to see the House bill pass.

As you know if you have followed this blog, the Senate does not have the votes to pass the broader version of the bill. SB939 can pass the Senate and it allows us to begin down the road to the broader bill. You also know if you follow my blog that bills that pass the House or Senate cross over to the other body. In general, the House always thinks their bills are better, and the Senate thinks the same. When HB582 crossed over to the Senate, it was “conformed” to the Senate version. That means the language of the House bill was changed to be identical to the version of the bill the Senate passed. Once HB582 was conformed, it became the opt-in version of the bill. In the House the same thing happened. The House knows their bill is better, so they conformed SB939 to HB582. So right now, SB939 is the broader bill. Today the House passed SB939 (conformed to HB582) 54-45. So, the language in the original bill patroned by Delegate Guzman has passed the House and the Senate. Don’t get too excited, though. Whenever a bill is conformed, it must go back to the body of origin for adoption. The Senate will reject the “new” SB939 and insist on their version of the bill. The House will do the same and we will go to conference.

The nerd in me wants to point out that as of this afternoon, both collective bargaining bills are in the hands of the VA Senate. They haven’t yet gotten the conformed HB582 to the floor, and the confirmed SB939 went back to the Senate today.

Here’s what’s important. The House stood with workers. The members of the House know that the Senate doesn’t have the votes to pass the broader bill. Any member could have voted differently or switched their vote today. None did. Even with all the Ds in the House knowing where this bill is likely to land when it goes to conference, they stood strong and passed, for the second time, a broad and full repeal of the ban on collective bargaining. Except Democrat Dawn Adams. She has voted with the Republicans both times.

Today, if you see a Democratic member of the House of Delegates, tell them thank you for standing with labor and the VEA!