Local governing bodies in Northern Virginia are reducing wages, benefit and services to their employees since the Virginia Supreme Court rules last January that local governments can not negotiate labor contracts with their employees.
In Arlington, five teachers who had planned to take sabbatical leaves this September have been told that the county will not honor those requests. Summer school teachers will get less pay this summer than previous summer school terms.
In Fairfax County, union member's paid leave to conduct union business has been cut back. The employee grievance procedure has been altered. The county school board is considering whether to prohibit the teachers' union from using the free inter-school mail service.
"Because of the Supreme Court decision, an attempt is being made to take advantage of our employees," said Peter J. Moralis, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFL-CIO).
However, county officials disagree. They said their actions have been cost-saving measures and every effort is being used, as one official said, "to treat the employees fairly."
When the Virginia Supreme Court rule last January that local governments have no power to bargain with their employees, Virginia joined 32 states that have not enacted state legislation endorsing collective bargaining. Although only 18 states have state laws authorizing collective bargaining, many more states allow their local governmental bodies to bargain with their employees.
"They (Arlington school officials) have completely negated what has been provided for summer school," said Karen Darner, president of the Arlington Education Association.
Darner said summer school teachers will be provided an hourly rate of $8.05 this summer. She said the maximum a summer school teacher can receive is $1,300, compared to the maximum $3,000 that summer school teachers received in previous years.
She said sabbatical leave for five teachers, who had been chosen for the leave about five months ago, has been removed from the school budget. Sabbitcal leave allows the teachers to receive their full-time salaries while studying in universities.
Arlington School Board Cgairman Diane Henderson said the loss of sabbatical leave and reduction is summer school pay were taken as means to save money in the school budget.
She said the two actions were "part of our (the county's) bargaining position" for next year's contract. "It was going to be a very tough negotiating session. Since we didn't go through the negotiation process, I don't know what would have happened."
Darner said an arbitrator had ruled a week before the Supreme Court decision that the county should reinstitute a free period during the day for department business. However, she said, since the ruling no action has been taken to give those department chairmen that extra period.
A school spokesman said Arlington school officials have not made a decision on the free period.
In Fairfax County, 203 school teachers will have to use personal leave or take leave without pay to attend a state education convention later this month, according to Edward A. Anderson, president of the Fairfax Education Association.
Anderson said previous delegates to the annual state education convention were given administrative leave. He said only the association officers - there are 16 - will be allowed to use administrative leave to attend the convention.
He said the salary credit that the president of the teacher association receives for the year that he leaves school has been taken away.
"I fail to understand how the school system, which gave us these benefits before, now denies them to us," Anderson said.
The Fairfax County school staff has recommended that the association be prevented from using the county intermail service, which Anderson said the association uses to distribute weekly newsletters to its 6,800 members.
Anderson said the loss of the courier service would mean that the association would have to pay for mailing its newsletters.
Fairfax School Board Chairman Rodney Page said school officials cut back the association leave because they would have to provide the same paid leave for other employee organizations.
Page said because of the Supreme Court decision, the school system is prohibited from dealing with the FEA exclusively. He said there are 11 other employee groups that the school system now must deal with and it is difficult and expensive to provide all the services the FEA had to the other groups.
He said that is the reason for the reduction in unions' paid leave and the staff recommendation that employee groups be prevented from using the intermail service.
"The board's position is to treat the employees fairly," Page said.
Already the Fairfax County supervisors have told the employee organizations that they will have to pay an undetermined amount for the dues checkoff. Before the court decision, the county provided dues checkoff at no cost to the unions.
Seniority, which had become a major basis for promotions and transfers of county employees, has now become an optional criterion with no mandatory requirement that county officials consider it is such moves, union and county officials said.
Over the years, unions have negotiated grievance procedures in an effort to make it easier for county employees to log complaints against supervisors and personnel procedures. However, union leaders said the court decision has ruled these procedures invalid. Thus, they say they are forced to follow the state grievance procedure, which, they say, is less effective.
Even though the employee organizations are prohibited from negotiating written contracts with the local governments, union leaders said their organizations still provide such services as insurance, dental and disability plans that require dues to continue to be paid.
Most union leaders said they will continue to meet and confer with local officials on wages and benefits affecting their members.
"We need to stay organized now more than even before," said Richard D. Cronin, president of the Fairfax County Professional Firefighters. Cronin said he now has to work 56 hours a week at the firehouse in addition to his union business. Before the court decision, the county provided Cronin six months paid leave for union business, he said.
The Virginia Supreme Court decision ousted the International Brotherhood of Teamsters from the county employee system, a move that some county supervisors and police had tried unsuccessfully to do last year.
Herman Simpson, president of Teamsters Local 246 which represented nonsupervisory police, said he doesn't think "it would be fair" to continue to collect dues from the police members since the Teamsters would not be providing any "meaningful representation." He said the Teamsters were interested in "written and signed contracts," which is prohibited by the court action.