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Coalition fights effort to repeal collective bargaining for public service workers

virginia state capitol
(© SeanPavonePhoto –

A coalition of labor unions is fighting back against Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s goal of repealing a 2020 law that to date has resulted in a number of public service workers gaining the freedom to collectively bargain for a contract through their unions.

Del. Elizabeth Guzman’s HB 582 and Sen. Dick Saslaw’s SB 939 empowered localities to opt-in to granting their workers collective bargaining rights. Fairfax CountyLoudoun CountyArlington 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, and Norfolk and teachers in Albemarle County and Prince William County are engaged in various stages of the process of securing collective bargaining rights.

Sen. Mark Obenshain and Del. Kathy Byron have introduced legislation that would repeal Virginia’s public sector collective bargaining law.

Additionally, Del. Nick Freitas has introduced a series of bills designed to weaken collective bargaining rights, including HB 335, HB 336, HB 337, and HB 341, as would Del. LaRock’s HB 790 and Sen. Obenshain’s SB 721.

“Public service workers across Virginia are asking for a seat at the table and a voice on the job,” said Doris Crouse-Mays, president of Virginia AFL-CIO. “Teachers, fire fighters, sanitation workers, social workers and support staff have helped power us through this pandemic, and we need them now more than ever as we navigate Omicron. Through collective bargaining, these workers can secure the conditions and equipment they need to better serve our children and communities. Our coalition represents thousands of public service workers and we will fight tooth and nail against Governor Youngkin’s effort to silence their voices.”

“The right to negotiate contracts is a win-win—both educators and students benefit. When the professionals who know our students’ names are given a voice, the needs of both are guaranteed to be front and center,” said Dr. James J. Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association. “Collective bargaining is one of our best ways to advocate for children and for public education.”

“As a resident of Alexandria, and a construction management specialist in the Environmental Services Department with Arlington County, I am responsible for and rely on the quality public services that Northern Virginia’s communities are known for,” said Luis Velez Sr. of Alexandria. “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to highlight the importance of public service workers and our dedication to the jobs that protect our community and fuel our economy. The freedom to collective bargaining enables public service workers to fight for better services for the communities we serve. This legislation would take us backwards.”

“Fire fighters are the subject matter experts in our profession. We should be at the table using that knowledge to be better able to serve the citizens we swore to protect,” said firefighter Joe Mirabile of Prince William County. “COVID brought many new risks and challenges to our day-to-day. By giving us a voice on the job, collective bargaining would empower us to secure safer conditions and better help our community get through this pandemic. If the General Assembly cares about our first responders and the people we serve, they will reject these bills.”

“As an elementary school teacher I have seen firsthand the strain the pandemic has placed on our students, our parents, and our communities.” said Rickita Robinson, member of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers. “Collective bargaining will allow educators to have a voice as we work to ensure our students receive quality education. This attempt to undermine collective bargaining for public sector employees should be rejected.”

augusta free press
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