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Loudoun firefighters, county board ratify collective bargaining agreement – Virginia

Loudoun firefighters, county board ratify collective bargaining agreement – Virginia

(The Center Square) – The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ratified a collective bargaining agreement with its firefighters, the first such agreement in the county’s history and one of many popping up across the commonwealth.

“I don’t know when I’ve been happier and more proud to make a motion,” said Board Chair Phyllis Randall, D-At Large. “If I were a crier – and I very well could be – I would be crying right now.”

The agreement was first made possible in 2020 with the passage of a law allowing collective bargaining at the local level from 2021. But establishing collective bargaining for all a county’s employees is a multi-step process, so it’s only just getting off the ground. land in Loudoun and other places in Virginia.

Once a union has been selected to represent a group of employees, negotiating an agreement can also be a difficult process. It took the International Association of Firefighters thirty meetings with the province’s negotiating team over the course of a year to reach a collective bargaining agreement that was approved by members and ultimately the province voted in favor of – and it has a number of rich benefits for the Loudoun firefighters secured.

Rebekah Bofinger, labor relations manager for the province, discussed some key parts of the agreement for online meeting participants and viewers.

For fiscal year 2025, for which the province has already approved its budget, the agreement guarantees an overall average uniform pay increase of 12.4% through a 9.4% increase in the uniformed pay scale and an incremental increase of 3% on average. The agreement provides for a 7% merit increase for citizens.

The uniformed pay scale would increase again by 2.5% per year in fiscal years 2026 and 2027, plus an incremental increase of 3.4% on average for uniformed personnel, resulting in an overall average uniformed pay increase of 5.5%. Civilian employees would receive a 5.5% increase each fiscal year.

The agreement also facilitates a full-time union representative and increases the limit for accrued vacation leave, among other things.

The estimated additional cost to the county to fulfill the agreement is more than $47 million over the next three years – approximately $11.1 million in fiscal year 2025, $15.8 million in fiscal year 2026 and 20.3 million in fiscal year 2027.

“We can’t continually talk about supporting our firefighters and first responders if we don’t explore all the different ways to support our first responders,” Randall said. “I am pleased and honored in every way to introduce this motion.”

Matt Letourneau, R-Dulles, one of two Republicans on the board, also shared his perspective. Although he is not in favor of collective bargaining, Letourneau voted in favor of the motion on Tuesday.

Letourneau mentioned “fair and reasonable” negotiations, saying: “I will support the motion tonight. Obviously I’ve had my own opinions on this general topic, and I’d certainly like to think we could have gotten here an alternative way, but…. The board has made a decision.”

So far, dozens of places in Virginia have considered or are considering collective bargaining. At least eight city or county school districts have voted to allow collective bargaining. Collective bargaining ordinances at the local level, such as in Loudoun, often allow all county employees to unionize, including teachers, other school staff, police, firefighters, labor and trades, and office and technical workers.

Some have rejected it for now, concerned about the cost to taxpayers. The Frederick County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution in 2020, when the bill was before the state legislature, strongly opposing the legislation.

“Many of the legislative proposals for collective bargaining could have a significant fiscal impact on Frederick County and its citizens, which could mean an increased tax burden to pay for this unfunded mandate,” the resolution said.

Loudoun’s “general government” employees selected the Service Employees International Union as their collective bargaining representative earlier this year, and the organization is in the process of negotiating an agreement with the county.

Virginia SEIU President David Broder on Tuesday applauded the district’s ratification of its first collective bargaining agreement.

“This historic vote is yet another sign of the growing labor movement in Virginia,” Broder wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

But at the same time, Broder pointed to the Loudoun schools as the next battleground for union representation.

“It is time for the Loudoun School Board to pass a meaningful bargaining resolution!” Broder said.

Once the board passes the resolution, teachers will be able to vote for their collective bargaining representative, a position the Loudoun Education Association has campaigned for vigorously.