Anti-worker bills killed by Virginia state Senate, thanks to AFSCME Virginia members

Anti-worker bills killed by Virginia state Senate, thanks to AFSCME Virginia membersCalvin Thompson (Photo credit: Namita Waghray)

AFSCME Virginia members have helped defeat anti-worker legislation filed in the state Senate that sought to repeal a historic collective bargaining law and weaken the power of public employee unions.

Since taking effect last year, Del. Elizabeth Guzman’s House Bill 582 and Sen. Dick Saslow's Senate bill have led to a number of collective bargaining ordinances. Last April, the city of Alexandria became the first city to pass a collective bargaining ordinance giving its employees the right to bargain for the first time in over 40 years. Arlington County soon followed, as have other localities. Norfolk employees are working together with the city council to pass a collective bargaining ordinance as well.

Calvin Thompson, an equipment operator for the city of Norfolk, testified before the Virginia Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee to oppose Senate Bill 274, which would have repealed the 2020 law that empowered local governments to give their employees the freedom to form unions and negotiate contracts.  

“My co-workers and I make sure the streets are clean and safe for Norfolk residents. I have been on call for the past two weeks without a day off, keeping streets clear of snow and salted during the recent snowstorms,” Thompson testified last week, along with members of the Stronger Communities-A Better Bargain Coalition of unions. “It hasn’t been easy. While I am proud to be a Norfolk city employee, working to keep the city running through the pandemic has had a devastating effect on our workforce. The city is struggling to keep city positions filled, and I am working two different jobs for the city because we don’t have enough staff.”

Even prior to the pandemic, “the city had been short-staffed and city employees were operating under less-than-ideal conditions,” he added. “That is why I am here in opposition to … any proposed legislation that repeals collective bargaining or diminishes our freedom to join together in a union.”

The committee also killed Senate Bill 721, which was intended to eliminate union dues deduction.

AFSCME Virginia members pointed out that these two bills were aimed at diminishing public employees' power and that union employees were ready to fight to protect their right to organize and win a voice on the job.

The fight is not over.

AFSCME members also oppose four anti-worker bills filed in the Virginia House of Delegates. House Bills 336, 337, 341 and 720, like the Senate measures, are all aimed at diminishing public employee power and eroding their right to collectively bargain. AFSCME members say they are confident the House bills will be stopped in the Senate.