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.