Danville City Council tables vote on collective bargaining

Danville City Council tabled a vote at its meeting Tuesday evening that would have prohibited collective bargaining or recognizing a union among public workers.

Dozens of city utility workers and firefighters filled council chambers having their voices heard through to representatives.

Dale McCray, the lead organizer with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, spoke on behalf of utility employees saying the workers just “want a seat at the table” for a conversation.

“We don’t particularly see the need for the resolution you have on the agenda,” McCray said referring to the measure to solidify the city’s stance against collective bargaining. “I’m not sure what your motive was to do that.”

McCray was approached by Danville Utilities employees recently about possibly forming a union.

The city has always prohibited collective bargaining, but the issue surfaced after a state new policy took hold in 2021 when the Virginia General Assembly allowed local governments the authority to recognize unions and engage in collective bargaining contract talks.

Thomas Collins, a captain at the Danville Fire Department, urged members not to act Tuesday night.

“It’s being pushed quickly and we would like things to slow down if possible,” he said.

Councilman Sherman Saunders stressed that members of council have always addressed any issue that popped up surrounding city workers.

“This council would never allow any employee to be mistreated,” Saunders said, noting he was not anti-union. “I am in favor of all employees being treated properly.”

McCray said it could be a great partnership for Danville. In the time he’s spent here, he knows the city has a “very progressive group of people” looking to advance the city forward.

“Just to make it clear,” he said, addressing council, “your employees want a seat at the table to … make Danville a better place.”

Collins said he wasn’t there to talk about pay, again referencing wanting a seat at the table.

Even with pay not an issue, Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones reminded council of a pay study underway focusing on city workers.

“I think employees have the right to collective bargain,” Danville Vice Mayor Gary Miller said, also referencing a study looking at pay for firefighters compared to other localities. “If we can’t close the gap, then they need the right to try to collective bargain to close the gap themselves.”

In the end, members tabled the issue.

Article By Charles Wilborn | Register & Bee