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Alexandria School Board makes big changes to proposed collective bargaining resolution

The Alexandria School Board discusses collective bargaining in their work session on Thursday, March 14, 2024 (via ACPS)

The Alexandria School Board made significant changes to its proposed collective bargaining agreement resolution with staff on Thursday night.

In a work session that ran until nearly midnight, the Board amended the 17-page draft resolution, which sets the rules for negotiations on a three-year agreement. The draft resolution reveals a slow rollout for the Alexandria City Public Schools bargaining process that will only reach full fruition in future negotiations, with the school system currently focusing on reaching an eventual collective bargaining agreement on six yet-to-be-determined topics with a portion of employees.

The document was heavily criticized last month by the Education Association of Alexandria (EAA) union. EAA was adamantly opposed to the draft recommendation that 30% of licensed staff and support personnel vote to create two separate employee unions, or bargaining units, to represent them.

“We got some things and others we did not,” EAA President Dawn Lucas said. “We are not in agreement with any voter thresholds and don’t want limitations on bargaining topics.”

Last October, EAA sent the Board an employee certification on behalf of licensed teachers. That submission gave the Board 120 days to adopt a framework for the collective bargaining resolution, with a full board action expected on Thursday, March 21. ACPS wants to come to a collective bargaining agreement with staff by the end of the year, School Board Chair Michelle Rief said earlier this year.

School Board Member Abdel Elnoubi got majority support from his colleagues to remove the 30% voting threshold for employees to establish unions for bargaining.

“I don’t think anyone in this town was elected with 30% of the vote, not the mayor and City Council, and not us,” Elnoubi said. “I think it’s a burden that’s unnecessary.”

Board Member Chris Harris said he felt challenged by removing the 30% threshold.

“I’m challenged by this,” he said. “I’m just not sure what the engagement looks like. There could be two people. That could be a handful of people make a decision for an entire business unit. I’m not okay with that.”

The draft document now stipulates that employee unions can be established by a simple majority of staff within their respective employee groups.

The Board added Member Ashley Simpson Baird’s recommendation to increase the number of bargaining topics from four to six, and adding a sunset clause removing all restrictions on the number of topics that can be bargained after the first agreement expires.

Also approved was Vice Chair Kelly Carmichael Booz’s proposal to expand collective bargaining to administrative staff after the first agreement expires.

School Board Member Tim Beaty, a former leader with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, won a recent special election by campaigning on the importance of collective bargaining. He added language that will make the school system pay for the union elections.

“To me, the election is an obligation of the government that’s holding the election,” Beaty said. “We’re not trying to state what the rules are for the election, but we will pay for the election.”

ACPS middle school teacher David Paladin Fernandez is running against Lucas for EAA president. That election is expected to be conducted in May and the results released before July 1.

Fernandez sat through the nearly four hour meeting and walked away hopeful. Changes he’d like to see are management providing mailing lists of staffers to the EAA on a quarterly basis, and adding a “just cause” clause forcing the school system to tell employees why they are being disciplined or fired.

“EAA needs this to pass,” he said. “I like the level of discourse. It’s not something we see often out of the School Board. I’m largely happy.”

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