Richmond city workers hit snag with union negotiations
Monday, November 13, 2023
City employees in Richmond are frustrated by the city's unwillingness to negotiate a union contract.
Earlier this year, the workers voted to unionize, seeking a fair wage, affordable health care and paid leave benefits. Workers feel the city is not taking their effort seriously, and they are on a deadline. If a contract is not approved by Dec. 1, it would be ineligible for funding in the 2025 budget.
LaNoral Thomas, president of Service Employees International Union Virginia Local 512, described how unionizing will affect Richmond employees.
"When our members are able to negotiate a contract that provides for preventives for health and safety, for mental health awareness, and protections, they're able to stay in these jobs long term," Thomas explained. "Which creates relationships between city employees and the city."
A Commonwealth Institute report showed the city had an 11% turnover rate between 2016 and 2020. Overall, it costs the city more than $6.7 million per year.
Thomas and the city's bargaining team sent a letter to Mayor Levar Stoney and the City Council, expressing their dismay about the inability to come together for negotiations.
The Commonwealth Institute's report also found one in 12 of the city's full-time employees cannot afford to support themselves on their salary.
Catherine Bruce, senior library technician for the Richmond Public Library, said unionizing can help get better equipment for librarians to do their jobs.
"We have not had a computer upgrade in several years," Bruce noted. "We constantly have to apologize for computers that freeze up, and we do what we can to juggle and help get people what they need."
She added people working in juvenile justice often have unmanageably high caseloads with quotas they cannot meet. The hope, she emphasized, is to hire more people to lighten the load and develop more reasonable quotas.
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