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Virginia Collective Bargaining Bill Would Lead to Better Public Services

Stock photo of the Virginia Capitol by Getty Images
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After helping elect the most worker-friendly legislature in Virginia in at least 25 years, public service workers in the state, including AFSCME members, want a seat at the bargaining table.

A bill introduced in the state legislature this month would make it possible for public service workers to have collective bargaining rights.

It’s sponsored by Elizabeth Guzman, a Virginia delegate who represents the 31st legislative district and works for the City of Alexandria as division chief in the Department of Community and Human Services. She is also a member of AFSCME Local 3001.

Collective bargaining rights would allow teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public service workers to negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions as well as the equipment and resources they need to provide high-quality public services. 

AFSCME and other labor unions have formed a coalition called “Stronger Communities. A Better Bargain” to push the Virginia legislature to approve Guzman’s bill. 

Virginia is one of only three states – along with North Carolina and South Carolina – to explicitly prohibit all public service workers from bargaining collectively. Many other states do not specifically forbid state and local government workers from negotiating together for a better life, but they also haven’t passed laws recognizing such rights.

The federal Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which has been introduced in both chambers of Congress, seeks to correct this problem. It would give all public sector workers a seat at the negotiating table, establishing a minimum standard of collective bargaining rights that all states must provide.