|Public service workers from throughout the Commonwealth today called on the Virginia Senate to be a brick wall against legislation passed by the GOP-controlled House of Delegates that would repeal a 2020 law that has resulted in thousands of public service workers throughout Virginia gaining the freedom to join a union and bargain collectively for a contract.
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 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.
“When educators and school divisions negotiate contracts, it results in better schools and that’s better for our students, our families, and our community,” said Darrell Turner, a preschool teacher at Blackwell Preschool Center, and Vice President of Richmond Education Association. “We work with students every day, and by having a voice at the table we can help them to get some of what they need most, which are better learning conditions through steps like better staffing, smaller class sizes, and better technology and supplies … We must not allow the General Assembly to move backward. We must protect our hard-fought right to negotiate our contracts. Those rights are far too important, both to us and to our communities.”
‘We support strong collective bargaining for our workers. It was a huge step forward that Virginia repealed that prohibition a
nd allowed us the opportunity to really begin working with our local governments to have a fair seat at the table. Really at the end of the day that’s what, in our line of work, our firefighters and paramedics are asking for,” said Kurt Detrick, 6th District Vice President for the Virginia Professional Firefighters in Hampton Roads. “The way the current structure is set up, where we don’t have collective bargaining rights in every locality and an ability to sit down and have meaningful discussions and work on workplace issues and safety, is really a disadvantage – not only to the employees in the fire service, but also the citizens that we serve … [W]hat we look for whenever we have the ability to bargain, is to sit down and advocate for proper staffing levels, make sure we have the right equipment, and that our workforce is trained and treated fairly and equitably so that we can make sure we are providing the best services to the community.”
“During this pandemic, essential public service workers like me and my colleagues, have been on the frontlines of keeping our communities healthy and safe,” said Tammie Wondong-Ware, a Fairfax County employee and president of the Fairfax Chapter of SEIU Virginia 512 who for over 30 years has helped children, families, and older adults receive quality public services. “We have provided vital services of childcare, transportation, sanitation, mental health services, and so much more. We have been called essential, but not always treated as essential. Years without raises and lack of rights on the job have made it hard to care for our own families as we serve the community … Fairfax County, where I work, passed a meaningful collective bargaining [ordinance] last fall. I personally put a lot of time into working with the county to get this done, because I know collective bargaining is a powerful tool to ensure good union jobs and quality services for all people.”
“I believe every person who works to make their community safer, stronger, and better deserves respect,” said Luis Velez Sr, an Arlington County Construction Management Specialist and member of AFSCME Local 3001. “As a resident of Alexandria, I was proud to stand with Alexandria City employees as they won a strong collective bargaining ordinance. I was even more excited, a few months later, as an Arlington County employee when we passed our own collective bargaining ordinance. City and county employees are now moving towards a more collaborative environment between our administration and our employees …. We cannot afford to go backwards. I’m urging our elected officials in the Virginia Senate to dismiss these bills. We have a lot of work to do as our localities continue to recover from the pandemic and we are stronger when public employees are respected, have a voice on the job, and strong unions to advocate for the communities that we serve.”