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Bill to Grant Public Service Workers The Right to Collectively Bargain Passes Virginia House Appropriations Committee

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From “Stronger Communities. A Better Bargain”, a coalition comprising a number of labor groups.

Bill to Grant Public Service Workers The Right to Collectively Bargain Passes Virginia House Appropriations Committee

RICHMOND, Va. – After clearing the House Labor and Commerce Committee yesterdayHB 582, Delegate Elizabeth Guzman’s bill to give public sector workers the right to collectively bargain, today passed the House Appropriations Committee.

Together with North Carolina and South Carolina, Virginia is one of only three states to ban public sector collective bargaining,” said Delegate Guzman. “We have been far behind the curve of history. All workers should have the right to form a union and bargain collectively. Furthermore, if we give our public service workers a voice, they will advocate for the students, patients, and communities they serve.”

Tammie Wondong-Ware of Prince William County, who works as a Human Services Assistant in the Adult and Aging Division in Fairfax County, told the Committee, “I work with older adults. People who are aging have a lot of anxiety and frankly, people like me who work with them do, too. If there’s someone you love who is getting older, you know that person needs time to get ready and time to walk down the steps to go to a doctor’s appointment. Rushing them makes their anxiety worse. Yet that is exactly what I have to do because I’m so busy getting to the next person. To keep up, I skip meals or eat in my car and work really long days, making me anxious and stressed out, too. Nobody is getting what they need. I’m here today to call on this committee to do better by people getting older and children with disabilities and all Virginians. When public service employees have the freedom to collectively bargain, we can negotiate for the right tools and resources to serve the people of our communities better. We can negotiate better staffing so we can give people the time they need and be able to work with the abilities they have.”

Bob Wood, who taught high school social studies in Fairfax County for over 26 years, told the Committee, “One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered consistently over the course of my teaching career is the disconnect between administrators and teachers. Teachers know what happens minute by minute in the classroom. We know what the problems are, and we know what is needed to more effectively address those problems. But because there is little communication between teachers and administrators, we are addressing challenges connected to class size, discipline, and academic achievement on the fly. If we collaborated on the front end, we can establish comprehensive solutions to better serve our students. Teachers’ working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. If you give us a seat at the table, we will be a voice for our students and make the system work better for all of us.”

“I personally have taught over 165 students, where I didn’t have enough seats in my classroom for every student to have a desk,” said Kelly Walker of Virginia Beach, a high school government teacher with 28 years of experience. “As you can imagine, that causes a lot of stress as we move forward to try to ensure that every student has a healthy and positive learning environment. A better working environment for teachers translates to a better learning environment for our students. It is time teachers have a seat at the table so that we can fight for our students.”

Corrections Officer Bridget Squire of Emporia told the Committee how the freedom to collectively bargain would improve conditions for both workers and offenders.

“Our working conditions and severely low staffing levels are dangerous not only to staff, but also to offenders and our communities,” Squire said. “We are losing people every day over issues related to pay, safety, and lack of training. We would see long-term savings if we improve retention among our corrections officers. When workers have a seat at the table, many of the problems that confront us and contribute to our inability to retain qualified employees can be solved.”

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Authorized by “Stronger Communities. A Better Bargain”, a coalition comprising Virginia AFL-CIO; The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); The American Federation of Teachers (AFT); The Communications Workers of America (CWA); Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Virginia Education Association (VEA); The Virginia Professional Fire Fighters (VPFF) and The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400.