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98% Vote Yes, Richmond City Workers Win First Union Contract

January 19, 2024

City Employees vote in favor of ratifying historic union contract

Today, the Administration and Technical employees of the City of Richmond have officially won their first union contract. Workers from across the unit voted and 98% voted in favor of the tentative agreement with the city, officially ratifying the contract and securing major wins for workers. The contract becomes effective July 1, 2024

“This has been a long time coming and I’m glad the day is finally here,” said Felicia Boney, Richmond City employee in the department of Social Services. “We now have a voice in the decisions about our pay and working conditions and exercised that voice in negotiations. We finally have a contract–a tool that ensures fairness and accountability–between workers and managers that improves our jobs and the services we provide the community. This is how it should be for all workers.”

The unit, which is made of 70% women and 81% people of color (77% Black), has been historically underpaid and marginalized, while providing essential services that keep the city and residents running. The contract brings significant changes in pay and working conditions. Highlights include a cumulative 10.5% raise over the life of the contract (4% in July 2024, 3.25% in July 2025, and 3.25% in July 2026). There’s a pool of $1 million for salary upgrades, protections from retaliation when engaged in union activities on City property, and the agreement puts the burden on the City to prove they have a legitimate cause for all discipline issues, including termination. Additional contract highlights can be found here.

"We are elated to announce that after months of hard work, negotiations and mediation, members of SEIU Virginia 512 have spoken and voted yes to ratify our first union contract with the City of Richmond. This is a momentous day for Richmond City employees in the Admin and Tech unit and their families, as this union contract ensures raises over the next few years, improved working conditions, and greater accountability from management,” said LaNoral Thomas, President of SEIU Virginia 512. “This vote also signifies that we are setting a higher standard for employees and residents across Richmond. When essential workers win, the city and residents that rely on essential services win. We look forward to continuing to work with the City to keep workers and their families thriving, and to improve the public services that they provide to our community each day."

This historic victory was decades in the making. After years of organizing, the Virginia statewide ban on collective bargaining for public service workers was overturned in 2021, dismantling a vestige of Jim Crow intended to divide Black and white working people. Then, on July 25, 2022, in the former capital of the Confederacy, Richmond City employees won their right to a union when the City Council passed a historic collective bargaining ordinance for city employees. Since then, Richmond City workers have been energized to build their unions like never before and the movement is growing across the Commonwealth. By joining together, Richmond city workers are demanding something better for all Virginians. Because Virginia is for Unions.

Collective bargaining is the best way to close racial and gender pay gaps while raising standards for all workers, and is spreading across Virginia. Collective bargaining strengthens local economies, advances economic and racial justice throughout the community, improves recruitment and retention, enhances services, and is supported by 68% of Virginians. To learn more, read The Commonwealth Institute's report here.