WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Virginia local leaders today issued the following statement on passage of a bill in the Virginia state Legislature that lifts a blanket ban on collective bargaining for some public employees in the commonwealth. House Bill 582 would allow school boards and local governments to engage in collective bargaining with their employees. This is a historic step forward for public service workers in Virginia.
The AFT looks forward to working with Gov. Ralph Northam, who has 30 days after the session to act on the legislation before it becomes law.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said:
“All workers deserve a voice at work and the right to negotiate with their employers for better working conditions. This legislation represents a historic first step in the commonwealth and gets us closer to ensuring all public sector workers in the country have a voice. Indeed, 63 percent of Virginia’s voters support the right of public service workers to join together and negotiate for a better life and stronger communities. They recognize, as we do, that when the people who are closest to delivering services to the public have a seat at the bargaining table, the entire community benefits.
“While we celebrate today, we know more must be done, and we will not stop until the laws of the commonwealth reflect the will of the people for every single one of its workers, including those in higher education.”
Norfolk Federation of Teachers President Thomas Calhoun said:
“This bill gives K-12 educators the ability to bargain for the resources that are distributed in our schools. With a voice at work, educators can negotiate for better services for our kids, which helps the entire community.
“But all Americans want a better life and a better future for their families, so we have to do everything we can to extend these rights to our colleagues in all sectors, because having the ability to negotiate with employers to improve working environments is a win-win for communities, families and the people who serve them. Collective bargaining enables teachers to advocate for adequate staffing so their students get the resources they need to learn; it allows nurses to come together for overtime protections so their patients are safe under their care; and it gives public employees the ability to negotiate rules for safer workspaces.”
Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Tina Williams said:
“This bill proves elections matter. When we elect lawmakers who share our values and who believe in uplifting workers, we get legislation that gives people a hand up and a path to the middle class. But we cannot ignore the fact that this measure leaves so many of our colleagues in the public sector behind. We will continue to fight until all of Virginia’s workers—regardless of where they work—have a voice on the job.”