Restoring Workers’ Rights in Virginia

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    (Thanks to the Clifford campaign for this diary. By the way, I really like the way both Democratic campaigns in the 49th district are coming on here and offering their positive, progressive ideas for Virginia! – promoted by lowkell)

    Since winning majorities and governorships in Virginia and across the nation in 2009 and 2010, the Republican Party has launched an assault on issues that directly affect the middle class. We’ve seen them defund education, limit access to healthcare and degrade a woman’s right to choose. Their radical conservative agenda has also targeted a traditional democratic institution at the state and local level–collective bargaining and unions.

    First, the battleground for public workers was in Wisconsin, my home state, where radical Republican Governor Scott Walker ignored hundreds of thousands of protesters to ram through a bill eliminating collective bargaining rights. We have seen a rejuvenation of democratic action and participation in Wisconsin, as in Ohio, Tennessee and New Jersey, all in support of union rights.

    It is through this tragedy that we, as Democrats, have become reoriented with the power of unions in the lives of working families in the public and private sectors. They have also reminded us of the many positive things we enjoy today as a result of union activism, such as weekends, paid sick leave, and occupational safety regulations.

    Not only do unions make material differences in the lives of workers throughout our economy, they also exemplify democracy in action in the workplace. At the construction site, in the store aisles, and in the classroom, working Americans have a voice, and when combined with those of their coworkers, they can take hold of their own destiny and dignity in the workplace. My father and grandfather were UAW. I have experienced firsthand the difference that collective bargaining makes and I will stand up for Virginia’s working families.

    Unions support and enable safe working conditions, just pay, and a balance between work and personal or family life. This is what democracy is all about: a collective, popular, participatory movement towards justice and dignity for all.

    In 1993, a ban on collective bargaining for all state and local employees in Virginia was signed into law by Governor Wilder. Since then, successive Virginia governors, Republicans and Democrats – Allen, Gilmore, Warner, Kaine, and McDonnell, have done nothing to change this injustice to our public workers. Virginia remains one of only three states in the United States with total bans on collective bargaining in place for all teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other state and local employees.

    As progressives, we must speak out and take action against a system that denies public workers in Virginia rights afforded to public workers in some capacity in 47 other states, as well as throughout the private sector. In Richmond I will work to ensure that anyone who is willing to work hard, earns a decent paycheck. It is an issue of fairness and equal rights, regardless of chosen career. As your delegate, I will introduce legislation to restore these fundamental rights.

    Read more about my support for workers on my website at www.stephanieclifford.org.

    Please follow my campaign at facebook.com/StephanieClifford.Virginia and @cliffordforva on Twitter as we continue to tackle these and the oher most important issues facing our great Commonwealth.

    • sspiker

      Ms. Clifford, I’m  not a voter in the 49th District. However, I do have a question about state and local employees. Do you have figures on the salaries/benefits/pensions that Virginia’s state employees receive compared to other states, specifically states that have collective bargaining rights?

      The reason I ask is because “lower salaries” wasn’t a reason you cited as a justification for this legislation you intend to propose. If you feel that the legislation justifies itself, I certainly understand. But I’m wondering, for those pro-union Republicans or other Democrats who may be initially uncertain about voting for your legislation, if there are figures that demonstrate a need.

      Thank you.

    • glennbear

           Prior to my retirement I was a public employee in another state and for a period of time I was a vice president of the largest law enforcement union in that state. The mindset in VA as I see it is a throwback to the days of the plantation where the plantation owner (public or private employer) was a demigod and the slaves/sharecroppers (employees) had no rights or bargaining power. Unfortunately far too many employers and employees have been brainwashed that unions are inherently evil and the 19th century mindset I outline is the natural order of things.

       Collective bargaining is definitely needed when so many government officials cater to the whims of corporate voices and their spin machines and public employees are demonized.

    • VADEM

      take it from me. We tried for 6 years to organize at UVA. We had the backing of CWA. I met several times with Warner and Kaine trying at the very least to get a meet and confer executive order. No luck. Even repeated attempts by us, CWA, the AFL-CIO (Danny LeBlanc and Jim Leaman) brought zilch. The political will is just not there, state workers even today are frightened that if they join a union they will get fired. Virginia will always be a right to work for less state. The rethugs and many dems will never let state workers organize. Without collective bargaining and strike rights, a public sector union will never fly here. W & M has a union-forget which national union they are affiliated with, as do some correctional officers (CWA). I believe they do good work, handle grievances, lobby in Richmond on behalf of their members, but in the end, the unions have no teeth. I really wish I could be more positive but I believe it is a lost cause. Apathy is one problem, fright is another. State workers are losing ground every year with hc, their pensions, their right to organize etc.

      Now I am in CA and the public sector unions here are under fire because of budget problems here. Huge concessions on their contracts, massive layoffs, rising hc costs. It’s nationwide.

      One could only wish VA public workers were as tough and brave as the Wisconsin state workers.

    • d_strict

      for a troll rating from one of the opponent’s supporters.  But I just wanted to say that Kaine has been a disappointment regarding this public sector workers’ issue, and also on the issue of the estate tax, the environment, transportation, etc.  So good for Ms. Clifford to bring up this important matter.

    • truthteller

      Kudos to Stephanie for another thoughtful issues piece. As Lowell said I think it is a credit to both her and Alfonso Lopez that we’re seeing so much discussion of substantive positions on issues of relevance to progressive Arlingtonians from both campaigns.

    • Peter Rousselot

      Congratulations to Stephanie Clifford for taking a courageous and positive stand supporting collective bargaining rights for Virginia’s public sector employees. While some other commenters on this thread despair about the prospects of this issue in Virginia, Stephanie has shown she is a leader who will not mute her voice because others have muted theirs.