Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Right to Work and Collective Bargaining

February 12, 2020

Contrary to popular misconception, collective-bargaining rights and right-to-work laws are not the same thing. Collective bargaining rights dictate whether employers must, may, or cannot recognize an employee organization as a union or bargaining agent. Teachers are always free to organize but if employees want to negotiate a binding contract (also called a collective-bargaining agreement, or CBA) with their employer, the employer must recognize them as a union and enter into a CBA. Fourteen states leave the decision up to the district, and five states prohibit collective bargaining in education. Virginia is currently one of those five that prohibit it totally.

The second part of collective bargaining are the laws that determine the scope of bargaining (the provisions that must, may, or cannot be a part of any binding contract). In some states, these laws stipulate that base wages, hours of employment, and terms and conditions of employment (things like teacher leave, class size, and extracurricular duties) must be bargained. But laws may also explicitly prohibit some items such as teacher evaluations, discipline procedures, dismissals, layoffs, performance pay, transfers and reassignments, and the length of the school year. Determining the scope of your bargaining power is important and something we will need to dig into if we are able to repeal the ban on collective bargaining in the Commonwealth.

Right-to-work laws stipulate that no union can require membership as a condition for employment. These laws also dictate that should employees choose not to be members, the union cannot charge them involuntary agency fees in lieu of membership dues.  A state that requires collective bargaining can also be right-to-work.

For public sector employees like school employees, the Janus decision in 2018 made Right to Work moot. The Janus ruling declared that, for public sector employees, compulsory union membership, or any agency fees paid to the recognized bargaining unit, were unconstitutional. Repealing Right to Work in Virginia would not change that. But repealing Right to Work would strengthen unions in Virginia, and that would be good for public sector unions even as we operate under the Janus ruling.

Shaw, Dara Zeehandelaar, Ph.D. “A Primer on Right-to-Work and Collective Bargaining in Education.” The Fordham Institute, 12/12/2012.

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