Thanks to legislation that went into effect on May 1, Virginia has joined the other 46 states that do not ban collective bargaining for public sector workers. Localities, including school boards, are now empowered to authorize workers to join unions that can collectively bargain for wages and working conditions.
This is a tremendous improvement for the rights of workers as well as for the quality of public service, and Charlottesville should join other localities around the commonwealth in enacting a strong collective bargaining ordinance to support its essential workers.
Workers fare much better with strong labor movements. Most union jobs tend to be more highly compensated; are more likely to have health benefits; and are more likely to have retirement benefits, allowing workers to retire with dignity. This is critical for public service jobs such as education and fire response, because it will improve the retention of experienced public servants.
Additionally, unions advocate for stronger public services — things like fair classroom sizes and better mental health responses, as well as safer work environments and better working conditions, all things that would benefit the community.
Public sector workers are critical to our community — from the teachers who shape our youth, to firefighters who keep us safe, to the bus drivers who provide essential transportation services.
Charlottesville’s public sector workers are the unsung heroes who truly make our community work. They’ve served admirably in the face of the unprecedented dangers and challenges presented by the pandemic. They deserve a voice on the job and the ability to carve out a dignified living.
Accordingly, City Council should do the right thing and pass a strong public sector ordinance that gives the essential right to collectively bargain to municipal employees.