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Richmond employees face realities of collective bargaining

In 2020, the Virginia legislature voted to allow collective bargaining in the state. And while the most populated areas moved quickly to develop agreements, some cities have hit snags. 
The Richmond City Council voted for an ordinance to allow collective bargaining with most city employees back in July 2022, and city employees voted in June 2023 for Service Employees International Union Virginia Local 512 to be their exclusive representative. They’ve been negotiating the first collective bargaining agreement since. 
City employees say, “the city is not taking their effort seriously,” even while they are under pressure to pass a contract before a December 1 deadline. 
Yet, studies have found that it takes on average over a year to negotiate the first contract in a newly unionized workplace. 
Still, workers are hopeful that collective bargaining will improve working conditions. 

Catherine Bruce, senior library technician for the Richmond Public Library, said, “we have not had a computer upgrade in several years. 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.” 
It is unclear whether the union has plans to negotiate for an upgrade to library computers as part of the first collective bargaining agreement. 

Isabel Blank

Isabel Blank is Communications Director at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Prior to joining Americans for Fair Treatment in 2021, Isabel worked in media relations at Travelers Insurance and held government affairs and communications roles with Yankee Institute. She has a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish, both from the University of Connecticut (Go Huskies!). Isabel loves Crossfit and supporting her local Connecticut breweries.