Charlottesville to study collective bargaining options

Charlottesville City Council has directed the city manager to pursue an ordinance to allow city employees to pursue entities to allow them to engage in collective bargaining. That’s not been possible until action by the General Assembly last year.  (read the bill)

At the public comment period earlier, bus driver Mary Pettis urged Council to proceed.

“I’ve driven the bus for 35 years in the City of Charlottesville and I’m here to ask you all to allow us to have a union because I feel it will help us,” Pettis said. “Help us get more things that we need. I personally had to move from Charlottesville to Waynesboro because I couldn’t afford to live in Charlottesville. I have three jobs because I don’t make enough money just driving the bus.”

Earlier this summer, Council approved a $2,400 bonus for new and existing school bus and transit bus drivers using funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. 

City Manager Chip Boyles said the city of Alexandria and Loudoun County have begun to implement collective-bargaining.

“Both governing bodies studied the topic over a course of several months, put together financial proposals, and used outside consultants in developing an implementation plan,” Boyles said. 

For some perspective, Loudoun County has a fiscal year 2022 budget of $3.3 billion based on a tax rate of $0.98 cents per $100 of assessed property. The city of Alexandria has a budget of $770.7 million based on a tax rate of $1.11 per $100 of assessed property. According to the U.S. Census, Loudoun has a 2020 population of 420,959 and Alexandria has a population of 159,467. 

So far, Charlottesville has not done the work on implementation but at least one group of city employees have requested the ability to enter into collective bargaining.

“On March 6, 2021, Charlottesville Fire Department notified the City Council that a majority of its members within the department desired that the City Council should adopt such an ordinance to provide rules for the city employees to engage in collective bargaining with the city,” Boyles said.

Boyles recommended Council deny an ordinance that’s been offered by employees of the fire department, but to move forward with study of how one might be crafted, as well as a review of possible budget implications. In the case of Loudoun County, their current budget includes $300,000 for eight positions to oversee the collective bargaining process. 

“This is an issue not studied or addressed within the current FY22 City Budget,” Boyles said. “I would research administration and support cost estimates for consideration for your FY23 budget development process,” Boyles said. 

Council voted unanimously to approve Boyles’ recommendation to proceed with study of a collective-bargaining ordinance. 

Charlottesville is currently without a human resources director. 

“The [Human Resources] position closed on Friday so we’ll begin that process this week of starting to narrow that down and hopefully we will have a director in shortly,” Boyles said. 

This week marks the six month anniversary of Boyles as city manager. In that time, two deputy city manager positions have been filled, as has the positions of city attorney and neighborhood development services director. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the August 19, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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