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Alexandria city workers win collective bargaining rights, set precedent in Virginia

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Alexandria city workers win collective bargaining rights, set precedent in Virginia
By AFSCME Staff ·

Public service workers in Alexandria, Virginia, are celebrating a precedent-setting victory that will give them a voice on the job.

They secured collective bargaining rights Saturday after the city council voted unanimously to approve the first collective bargaining ordinance in the commonwealth in over 40 years.

The ordinance gives city employees the right to bargain most workplace-related issues and includes bargaining units that reflect the diverse job titles and classifications of Alexandria’s employees. It represents a solid foundation for collective bargaining in Alexandria. 

Nelva Hernandez, a city worker and an AFSCME supporter, said she believes the new ordinance will set the tone for a respectful and supportive relationship between the city and its employees.

“My job is not just a paycheck, it’s a calling,” she said. “I am very pleased with all the hard work the council put into listening to us and adopting changes. The city respected our right to negotiate over real workplace issues that include safety and working conditions.”

Charlotte Malorich, a library assistant who is a resident of nearby Arlington County and a member of AFSCME Local 3001 (District Council 20), said she and her co-workers are excited about what this victory means for them.

“We know the (Arlington) county board will be proposing its own ordinance and have been following Alexandria closely – they have set standards we hope to build on,” she said.

The Alexandria ordinance will be effective May 1, 2021, which is the earliest that a local ordinance that gives city and other local government workers the right to collectively bargain may go into effect under HB 582, which was adopted last year. HB 582, introduced by AFSCME member and Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman, began rolling back Virginia’s collective bargaining prohibitions for public employees.

A coalition of organizations representing employees, residents and political leaders worked with the Alexandria City Council to improve the ordinance after it was first proposed by the city manager in February. It now aligns closely with the federal Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, as well as collective bargaining ordinances that exist in other jurisdictions in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

The new ordinance offers a strong model for other Virginia municipalities that are beginning to draft their own ordinances.

“On behalf of the thousands of AFSCME Council 20 public employees, we commend the mayor and city council for hearing our concerns,” said AFSCME Council 20 Executive Director Robert Hollingsworth.

The ordinance, he added, “serves as the leading example for cities and counties across the commonwealth.”

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