Charlottesville City Schools plans to approve a resolution that would give the division’s staff collective bargaining rights – rights that would make the union’s contract one of the strongest in the commonwealth, according to the union itself.
“The board will officially vote to adopt the resolution at its March meeting,” the school division said in a statement.
That vote may be toothless, however, if Charlottesville City Council refuses to allocate the funds to implement the agreement. And school officials said on Thursday they are still determining how much it would cost.
“The specifics matter,” City Council Member Brian Pinkston told The Daily Progress that same day. “I supported collective bargaining for the city, so I should support it for the city schools.”
But Pinkston said, “for all this stuff, we’re going to have to look at our total budget.”
School division Superintendent Royal Gurley did the first reading of the proposed collective bargaining agreement during a school board meeting Thursday evening. The crowd at the meeting was dotted with red shirts, a color long associated with the labor movement.
It took “a lot of meetings” to get to Thursday evening, Gurley said.
It was worth it, said Jessica Taylor, president of the Charlottesville Education Association union.
“It’s going to codify our seat at the table,” Taylor told The Daily Progress.
Charlottesville City Schools began working on a collective bargaining agreement with Taylor’s group in April of 2022.
If the school board votes to approve that agreement in March, it would be among the first school divisions in Virginia to do so since the state voted to allow local government employees to collectively bargain in 2020. Richmond Public Schools was the first division in the commonwealth to win collective bargaining rights in December 2022.
If passed, Charlottesville’s proposed agreement will also be “one of the strongest collective bargaining resolutions in the state,” the union said in a statement on Wednesday.
The Charlottesville agreement proposed covers two bargaining units: one that includes licensed school staff, such as teachers, nurses and librarians, and another for school support staff, including cafeteria workers and custodians.
Under the terms of the proposed agreement those two units can choose two topics to negotiate during the three-year span of the contract from a list including wages, benefits, discipline procedures and health and safety conditions, among others.
In May 2022, Albemarle County Public Schools voted against a resolution that would have allowed most division employees to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. At the time, county school board members said the state law allowing collective bargaining did not provide sufficient guidance for how the process would work.
Albemarle County school employees are expected to ask the school board to reconsider collective bargaining at the next school board meeting on Thursday.