Fairfax County has become one of the more heavily unionized jurisdictions in Virginia for government employees, with virtually all 9,500 school employees and 2,000 of the 5,500 general county employees covered by union contracts at the time the State Supreme Court ruled such contracts void. County officials have reassured employees that salaries and fringe benefits will remain at levels specified in present union-negotiated contracts, even though the contracts are now invalid.
However, not all county officials have been pleased with the increasing unionization of public employees, especially in the police department. County Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity, an outspoken opponent of the Teamsters, who organized the 505-officer police force several years ago, has said, "I'm not unhappy with the Supreme Court decision."
After county police officers began a stepped-up ticket writing campaign last summer to pressure the Board of Supervisors into giving them higher salaries, Herrity said, "There is no place in this county for a union like the Teamsters." A majority of the Board pledged to decertify the union if such "harassment" occurred again. Recognition or certification of a union as the exclusive bargaining agent for a group of county or city employees had been a voluntary thing, done in some cities and counties but not in others.
Of the county's 5,500 general employees, some 860 blue-collar workers belong to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, some 600 firemen are represented by the International Association of Fire Fighters and 505 policemen are represented by the Teamsters. The extent to which these unions may still be spokesmen or representatives of the employees is nuclear, although county officials say they no longer can be the exclusive bargaining agents and spokesmen. In addition, employees will longer be given time off to work on union affairs during work hours and all union-contracted grievance procedures are available to employees and are similar.
In county schools, the Fairfax Education Association has represented the 8,000-teacher staff since 1966 and the 1,500 maintenance and custodial employees have been represented by AFSCME.
Warren Eisenhower, director of school employee relations, said, "We've told them all we will continue the provisions of the agreements which are a matter of policy adopted by the (school) board. The only thing we can't continue are the perks (perquisites), like leaves of absence for association reps (representatives)." Eisenhower said it's now a question of "revising school procedures . . . and we're looking for all the advice and help we can get."