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Coming Soon: Higher Prices in the Form of Taxes

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Subscribers to Netflix will soon see rate increases because of the Screen Actors Guild-AFTRA Hollywood strikes. Buyers of new and used cars will, as a result of the United Auto Workers strike, see prices go up as supply dwindles and costs rise. 

The current spate of labor actions – involving more than 420,000 employees – is a response to higher inflation. However, it will also drive prices even higher, both through lost productivity and higher costs to pay for higher wages.

But as the old song goes, Virginians ain’t seen nothing yet … at least not if government unions get their way after this year’s elections. There are more increases coming – to your local property tax bill.

Collective bargaining and the monopoly union contracts they lead to are a new experience in Virginia. The General Assembly approved such bargaining at the local level in 2020.  So far, union organizing efforts have mostly centered around high population areas of the state.

There’s a reason for that: Union concerns focus less on salaries and working conditions than on maximizing the number of members and therefore the dues they receive from that membership. Collecting dues money from larger counties provides the resources to impose monopoly contracts on smaller jurisdictions. It is coming, eventually, to every Virginia county and city … and with a cost.

There is, after all, a reason the General Assembly permitted only local governments to take the plunge but not state employees: They knew the costs this will impose on government and they did not want to deal with it at the state level. Consider what is already being discussed in localities —

Fairfax, Loudoun, Alexandria, and Portsmouth together estimated the cost of administering a Collective Bargaining Contract at more than $5.5 million. That is before the contracts really start running up the costs as they do in other states, driving up employee costs 5-8 percent.

In Prince William County, teachers are demanding a 17 percent pay raise, or about a third of the school system’s current salary budget. In Richmond City, the new monopoly union contract requires up to a 40 percent salary increase over the next three years.

Few localities in Virginia have gotten to the point of finalizing teacher salaries, but union organizers are no doubt looking to places like New York CityLos AngelesChicago, or even Bergen County, New Jersey for their inspiration.  And while public employee strikes remain prohibited in Virginia, a union that is the sole bargaining agent can order its members to “work to the rule,” conduct a “sick-out,” and exert other forms of public pressure.

In short:  It’s going to get expensive.  What can taxpayers do to prevent the coming tsunami in their tax bills? 

For starters:  Let their local county supervisors, school board members and council members know that collective bargaining leading to monopoly union contracts will raise local property tax rates and urge them to resist going down that road.

Localities are not required to authorize collective bargaining.  But should a local government or school board say “No,” unions are permitted to tie up agendas and force a vote every six months, again and again and again.

And while unions claim this is all a “kumbaya moment” – a matter of “having a seat at the table” — for unions it is adversarial and much, much more.

A successful monopoly contract means a steady flow of political dollars into the teachers’ unions, and more money spent on a union agenda. For example:

  • The teachers’ unions have become an adjunct of just one party in America, spending $54 million in 2022, and teachers who protest are forced to go to court.  In the 2022-2023 election cycle public employee groups and labor unions have already spent $10.7 million on Virginia state elections alone.

Politicians are mostly likely to listen and be held accountable when they are up for re-hiring.  That comes November 7, when county supervisors, State Delegates and State Senators are up for election.

Taxpayers and voters should make it clear to their local officials: Don’t add to taxpayer costs by going down the road to expensive monopoly contracts.

And they should make it equally clear to legislators:  Repeal the law that enables those costly contracts.

Chris Braunlich is Senior Advisor and former President of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  He may be reached at

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