|RICHMOND, Va. – “Stronger Communities. A Better Bargain” – a coalition of labor unions collectively representing thousands of working families across Virginia – today condemned Republicans for passing a bill out of the House of Delegates that would repeal a 2020 law that has resulted in a number of public service workers gaining the freedom to collectively bargain for a contract through their unions.
Since taking effect last year, Delegate Guzman’s HB 582 and Senator Dick Saslaw’s SB 939 have triggered a slew of collective bargaining ordinances. Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, and the Richmond School Board have all passed measures to opt-in to giving their workers a voice on the job. Prince William County has taken a step in that direction, while workers in Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Richmond and Norfolk and teachers in Albemarle County and Prince William County are engaged in various stages of the process of securing collective bargaining rights. The Daily Press reported that Newport News public service workers are petitioning their City Council for collective bargaining rights.
“Richmond City employees work hard and keep our city running,” said Sonia Easter of SEIU Virginia 512, 25 year employee of Richmond City. “I work directly with the public, supporting young people and their families. My role is one of a few that is on the proactive side of crime. I help to address issues in the early stages, specifically minor crimes and offenses, so that young people can avoid the prison system. It is essential work that experts say directly severs the school to prison pipeline in our city. Collective bargaining is a mechanism that would allow all 3,000 Richmond city employees a seat at the table and a voice in the decisions that impact our jobs and our livelihood. It ensures that all employees are heard; that employees in small departments like me, are not forgotten. Collective bargaining is the tool that creates real partnership and accountability between managers and employees, so that all the unique needs that are required to properly function are acknowledged and addressed. This is our opportunity to create real change here and throughout Virginia. We cannot go back.”
As we continue trying to teach through political and public health pressures, we are left at the hands of many people who don’t always see or acknowledge what happens in the alternative setting I teach in,” said Paul Weiner, a teacher in Norfolk Public Schools. “Collective Bargaining will make sure all teachers have their voices heard and help us get what we need in order to safely and effectively serve our students.”
“As an employee in the city of Alexandria, my work isn’t just a job, it is a calling,” said Harlie White, a Traffic and Lights technician. “I care deeply for my community. In April of last year, my coworkers and I worked with the city of Alexandria Council members to enact the first collective bargaining ordinance in the Commonwealth in almost forty years. The freedom to collectively bargain enables public service workers to fight for better services for the communities we serve. HB 883 would take us backward by repealing a 2020 law that empowers localities to give public service workers the freedom to join a union, and local municipalities the autonomy to enact union agreements as they see fit. I stand in opposition to HB 883 with other city of Alexandria AFSCME members.”
“Through collective bargaining we negotiate for more than just economic security. It’s about securing vital resources to help our communities bring in more public resources to improve education. Collective bargaining is good public policy,” said Charlotte Hayer, a high school teacher in Richmond and member of VEA.
“Collective bargaining is about working conditions, safety, benefits, training, equipment and so much more,” said Bill Boger, an active firefighter in Henrico County, president of the Henrico Professional Fire Fighters Association and a district vice president with the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters representing over 9,000 of the firefighters who protect the Commonwealth. “As frontline workers who have faced the Covid-19 pandemic daily, we are able to provide beneficial insight into what we need to keep our communities safe. And as firefighters and EMS providers, we know first hand what it takes to provide the best services possible. Collective bargaining is a means for workers to have a voice in their employment. Through collaboration, employers and the communities they serve will see the benefit of having important decisions shared. Collective bargaining makes for stronger communities, where employees are not seen as simply line items on a budget, but as assets to the communities in which they live, work and raise their families.”
The legislation is being carried by Delegate Kathy Byron on behalf of the Youngkin administration. The House of Delegates also advanced other legislation intended to chip away at the freedom of public service workers to form a union and bargain collectively for a contract, including HB 336, HB 337 and HB 341, all sponsored by Delegate Freitas, as well as Delegate LaRock’s HB 790.