Richmond City Employees File to Vote on Union Contract
Thursday, March 2, 2023
City of Richmond employees have filed to vote on their first union contract, and while they are still in the early stages of establishing a union in Virginia's capital city, it has been a long road to get to this point.
A law passed in 2020 finally allowed public employees to be eligible for collective-bargaining rights. For the city of Richmond, a 2022 collective bargaining ordinance let employees begin establishing a union.
David Broder, president of Service Employees International Union Virginia 512, said the city council was eager to collaborate and listen to workers, so they could develop a fair collective bargaining ordinance. As employees prepare to head to the bargaining table, he detailed what they are seeking from their first union contract.
"Workers are seeking a fair wage that will allow them to live in the city. Workers are seeking affordable health care. Workers are seeking paid-leave benefits that will allow them to take care of themselves and their loved ones as they take care of the city," Broder outlined.
According to a report from the Commonwealth Institute, one in 12 full-time employees cannot afford to support themselves on their city salary.
The report also found high turnover rates are not limited to a single agency in the city. In comparing data from 2016 and 2020, the median turnover rate was a little over 11%, costing the city more than $6.7 million per year.
Broder thinks one of the biggest challenges with union organizing in the U.S. is actually joining a union. Although polls show there's an overwhelming amount of support for them, the winding road to developing a union can be a deterrent.
Given the commitment of City of Richmond workers, he feels the union will come through and be inclusive of all workers' needs.
"Workers have been working very hard, through the ordinance debate and beyond," Broder pointed out. "Workers will continue to do that. They'll be surveying their co-workers talking about what issues are most critical to them. They've been doing that for well over a year and will continue to do that."
Richmond employees are not alone in working to form a union. Employees from other cities such as Alexandria, Newport News and Virginia Beach are either working to form a union or already have one in place.
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