ALEXANDRIA, VA-Earlier today, Zebra Press Publisher Mary Wadland received two letters to the editor. Both concern the City of Alexandria‘s proposed ordnance to provide collective bargaining rights to their employees. The full text of each is below, preceded by their titles in boldface type.
As City Council prepares to enact its new ordinance extending collective bargaining rights to our dedicated public servants, it is important to understand that the right of “public sector” employees to be able to collectively bargain is a positive and productive way to manage the City’s workforce. To be able to negotiate agreements covering the basic terms and conditions of employment for a large swath of the workforce is much more efficient than having to deal with each worker on an employee-by-employee, subjective basis that is susceptible to favoritism, encourages obsequiousness, and results in poor workplace morale.
Some opponents of collective bargaining have stated that it costs too much or that it may result in delays in the delivery of essential services. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I have spent more than two decades negotiating labor contracts in the private sector, and I’ve consistently found that most resistance to collective bargaining is not over economic costs, but rather over the prospect of sharing power. Moreover, concerns over the delivery of essential services is a red herring. One only needs to recall the heroic efforts of the 9-11 first responders in New York City, or the brave teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School, or even the Giant grocery store workers here in Alexandria who never missed a beat during the Covid pandemic. All are union workers.
Finally, there are two topics that must be included in the City’s new ordinance: first, the scope of topics to be negotiated must not be confined to wages and benefits. To do so misses the point of collective bargaining. Non-economic terms of employment are of valuable to the parties and tend to be minimal in cost. To sacrifice these terms is a recipe for disaster and will prove to be costly. Second, any legitimate collective bargaining agreement must include an independent and impartial mechanism for resolving disputes. A binding decision rendered by a neutral third party lends credibility and predictability to the process.
I am proud to call Alexandria home, and want our City employees to be equally proud to work for us. Make our City workers proud, let them gain the respect and dignity they deserve, which true collective bargaining will offer them.
Matt Harris, Esq.
I am a resident of Alexandria and an AFSCME Member and I believe every person working to make their community safer, stronger and better deserves respect.
As an Alexandria resident for 3 years, I’m disappointed with City Manager Mark Jinks’ handling of the proposed collective bargaining ordinance. It will silence city employee voices regarding the work they do, and the services residents count on.
I’ve come to love Alexandria – it is a vibrant and diverse city; I am proud to be a part of this thriving community. We owe much of this to dedicated Alexandria public employees.
City Manager Jinks claims that Alexandria is a much smaller city than its neighboring municipalities and an ordinance that includes more than wages and benefits is too complicated.
I disagree – the ability to negotiate over workplace issues, workplace safety, or being able to speak up without fear of retaliation are simple basic rights that all public employees deserve.
Cities and towns across this country, much smaller than Alexandria, are thriving under collective bargaining ordinances that include workplace issues that are deeper than just wages and benefits. The city of Alexandria and its public employees deserve an ordinance that gives them a real voice on the job.
Public employees deserve an ordinance consistent with the standards in the proposed federal Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act. Every city employee deserves a full voice that includes a say on workplace safety, working conditions, and other issues.
I urge the City Council to REJECT this ordinance, as written, outright and to direct the City Manager to re-write and submit an ordinance that includes the right to bargain over workplace concerns beyond wages and benefits.