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.