The Loudoun Education Association is about to begin collective bargaining, but negotiations have stalled as the school division requests confidential member information, LEA President Sandy Sullivan said.
LEA submitted a letter to the school board on October 19 indicating that the association had obtained the necessary membership to begin collective bargaining in the form of authorization cards signed by the educators. The letter also asks the School Board to adopt its resolution to authorize collective bargaining.
Sullivan said the members’ primary concern was privacy.
“The concern is ‘will my boss know? Who would know this information?’ said Sullivan. “We have been clear with all employees we have spoken to that their information is confidential.”
But the school division, it seems, is unwilling to move forward with the process if that promise is kept.
“LCPS understands that in order to constitute a certification that a majority of LCPS public employees in a unit considered by such employees to be appropriate for public trading, LCPS requires an attestation of the accuracy of the information submitted” , school division spokesman Wayde Byard said in an email. Byard said the card information would be confidential. Still, it’s unclear who in the division’s administration would handle the cards.
LEA’s solution is to commission a third party to certify membership, though Sullivan said the school division would not agree.
“We agree that if the school system wants membership verified, that’s reasonable. But it is our duty to protect the information of the employees who signed these cards,” she said. “We’re in a place where they don’t want third parties, they want the cards.”
As negotiations stall, educators face tough staffing conditions as the Omicron variant ramps up. School staff are stretched and central office staff are sent to work in schools to cover classrooms and duties. Sullivan said the surge in COVID-19 cases is exacerbating existing staffing issues, including for replacements and bus drivers.
The 2021 legislation allowed public sector employees in Virginia to engage in collective bargaining with their employers. To represent a workforce, a union must demonstrate the support of a majority of employees in a defined bargaining unit.