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Much at stake for working families as Virginia elections approach

Photo credit: Getty.
By AFSCME Staff ·

Working families in Virginia have achieved much in the last two years, ever since they elected the most pro-worker state legislature in 25 years.

Under new leadership, Virginia has increased its minimum wage – from the federal rate of $7.25 an hour to $15 in 2026. It lifted the nearly 50-year ban on collective bargaining for local government employees, paving the way for Arlington County and the city of Alexandria to pass collective bargaining ordinances. The commonwealth also enacted the nation’s first COVID emergency workplace standard and was the first to make it permanent.

These victories could not have been possible without working families making their voices heard at the ballot box in 2019, when their votes gave worker-friendly Virginia lawmakers their first trifecta in the commonwealth – control of the governor’s mansion, the House of Delegates and the Senate.

As AFSCME President Lee Saunders put it last week to delegates at the Virginia AFL-CIO 25th Biennial State Conference and 2021 Political Convention, “Virginia had been one of just three states in the entire country with a blanket prohibition on public sector collective bargaining. Not anymore – because elections matter.”

To protect these victories and make further progress on issues that matter to working families, voters in Virginia must make their voices heard in this November’s elections.

Too much is at stake. “Holding and growing this trifecta is the difference between continuing Virginia’s march toward a worker-friendly future and turning back the clock to the dark ages,” Saunders said.

Further progress would mean the commonwealth approving a law that explicitly guarantees public sector collective bargaining rights to all workers.

All Virginia public sector workers – including 125,000 state employees – need collective bargaining,” Saunders said. “Everyone who devotes their career to public service deserves respect. And respect means the chance to sit down with the boss, negotiate terms of employment, and hash out a fair contract. Full stop. Bottom line. End of story.”

The potential for progress on behalf of working families “starts here in Virginia during this make-or-break election year, when there’s so much hanging in the balance,” Saunders said. “It starts with you. You will be the tip of the spear, setting the tone and the narrative for national elections in 2022.”

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