On June 22, 2023, the Administration and Technical employees of the City of Richmond voted with a margin of 20 to 1 in favor of uniting together in SEIU Virginia 512 to ensure that all employees have a meaningful voice on the job. 95 percent of voters voted yes for SEIU Virginia 512.
“I am glad about this,” said Otissa Williams, Richmond City employee in the department of Social Services. “This is a long time coming and was needed. Now we actually have a voice in what we receive as far as compensation, better [working] conditions, and now we can better serve our individuals without the worry over top of our head.”
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.
Richmond City employees provide the essential services that make Richmond strong. But too many are underpaid and overworked. As the city becomes prosperous, more and more city employees can’t even afford to live in the city they serve every day. We are seeking better wages, benefits and working conditions so that we can take care of our own families and build a stronger Richmond. We also need to hold our city accountable for paying all its essential workers fairly and keeping experienced employees on the job – no matter who we are, the color of our skin or where we’re from.
“Today is a testament to the power of working people to organize, mobilize, and fight for a better future,” said David Broder, President of SEIU Virginia 512. “Together, we made history in Richmond. Thanks to the courageous organizing and bold leadership of Richmond City workers, what was unthinkable just a few years ago has become real. Now we look forward to meeting the city at the bargaining table and negotiating a union contract that will improve the lives of workers and their families and improve the public services our community relies on everyday.”
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.
On June 30, workers from across the Commonwealth will gather to officially celebrate this historic union win. The Administration and Technical unit is looking forward to beginning negotiations for a strong union contract with Richmond City Council in the coming weeks.