What is Collective Bargaining?
Collective Bargaining is the process in which workers and employers sit at the negotiating table to come up with a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA"), a contract that is agreed upon by both sides and covers all workers in the specified bargaining unit(s). What this means is that we will have a collective bargaining election to make FEU the exclusive bargaining representative for educational employees in Fairfax County.
Collective Bargaining is an additional tool for our union to get the things that FCPS employees need. Through our union, we’ll be able to negotiate a contract with our employer to determine our terms of employment, which could include pay, benefits, hours, leave, job health and safety policies, ways to balance work and family, planning time, class sizes and more. This will be a game changer for our union and will be a way to solve workplace problems.
What Does This Actually Mean For Us?
Through our democratically-elected union, educators will have a seat at the table to bargain for the resources our students and educators need. Educator working conditions are student learning conditions and with collective bargaining, you’ll have a voice at work to negotiate for better working conditions for you, your students and our entire community.
Issues we have seen like pay freezes, the sub shortage, lack of planning time (and expectations to work outside of the scope of the job!), class sizes, and more - those can be addressed with provisions in a collective bargaining contract.
Our Situation -VA elected officials vote to support collective bargaining
For over 40 years, public sector collective bargaining had been explicitly banned in Virginia. This changed with a historic bill passed by the General Assembly in 2020 that became law in May 2021. The new law allows school boards and municipalities to engage in collective bargaining with their employees for the first time since 1977. This was a huge step for workers’ rights in Virginia - public service workers like teachers, firefighters, and county employees are no longer excluded from the right to negotiate for fair wages and safe working conditions.
While the law was an important first step, it did not require localities and school boards to engage in collective bargaining, but rather allowed each locality to opt into granting this right to their employees by passing a resolution or ordinance. After over a year of engaging with union members and other stakeholders, the FCPS School Board passed a collective bargaining resolution on March 9, 2023, finally opening the door to allowing this right for FCPS staff
We are now in the process of preparing for a union election in which all employees will have the opportunity to vote for union representation so that we can get to the bargaining table and negotiate the terms of our working conditions.
2023 also brought the formalization of our relationship with the Fairfax Education Association, FEA. FCFT and FEA are the two labor unions representing FCPS staff. We have decided that we are stronger together and do not want to jeopardize winning collective bargaining by competing. While we still remain separate unions, we are coordinating our efforts to win a union election together. We are seeking to represent all licensed instructional and operational employees as a joint bargaining agent. We plan to appear together on the ballot as the Fairfax Education Unions, FEU. When we get to an election, the two options on the ballot will now be the Fairfax Education Unions, FEU (which represents FCFT and FEA) or “No Union”. If we fail to win a majority of votes, FCPS staff will not receive bargaining rights, so it is critical that we not only get to an election, but win.
So What's Next?
Now that the FCPS School Board has passed the collective bargaining resolution, it is up to the employees to build up support to call for a union election. We are organizing members and building our union strength at schools and worksites across the district, educating staff about collective bargaining and gauging support to vote for FEU in a union election. We will call for an election when we know we have the support of a majority of FCPS employees and know that we are in a position to win. This process moves at the pace of the motivation of employees - the sooner we have a majority of support, the sooner we can get to an election.
We will all need to work together to ensure that our union is ready to seize this historic opportunity and win a union election - an opportunity that could take another 40 YEARS if unsuccessful. This means that we’ll need to strengthen our union and increase our membership. We need all members to become more active in building up our union strength.
Here are 4 steps you can take to help us get to a union election and win:
Join FCFT if you are not already a member and encourage colleagues who are not already a member of FCFT or FEA to join as well.
Show that you are ready to vote yes for FEU in a union election by signing on to the FEU Unity Statement.
Have one-on-one conversations with your colleagues sharing what you have learned about collective bargaining and ask for their support by signing the FEU Unity Statement.
If you feel ready to take on a leadership role at your worksite, email email@example.com to learn more about becoming a worksite lead to help get your worksite ready for a union election. The sooner we have an organized structure and support for FEU at a majority of worksites, the sooner we can get to an election and negotiate our first contract!
Here are some ways you can get involved