WHAT: Press Conference and Rally at City Council Meeting
WHEN: Tuesday, January 18 at 5:30pm
WHERE: City of Virginia Beach City Hall, Building 1, 2401 Courthouse Drive
WHO: Virginia Beach City Workers Union, UE Local 111, city workers, faith and community allies
Contact: Dante Strobino, UE International Representative at 757-632-7866 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The press is invited to join the newly formed Virginia Beach City Workers Union, UE Local 111 as workers and faith community supporters speak out at City Council demanding a real voice for safety, dignity, living wages and an end to institutional racism on the job.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr took his last stand supporting city workers in Memphis, Tennessee demanding these same rights. The 1,300-strong sanitation workers’ strike in 1968 was sparked by the deaths of two Black city workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who had been crushed on the job by a malfunctioning truck. As the nation celebrates the King holiday, this action will honor his real legacy as we request that the Virginia Beach City Council pass a resolution in support of Collective Bargaining. City workers across Virginia have a historic opportunity, with a new law effective May 1, 2021, allowing workers these rights for the first time in history, to overcome a racist legacy of the Jim Crow era. Five local governments across Virginia have passed similar resolutions to date.
“We must guard against being fooled by false slogans such as ‘Right to Work’. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone,” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1961.
In November, the Virginia Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis released a report that found that 9 out of 10 city employees cannot afford to raise even a single child within the Virginia Beach city limits. For the last several months, hundreds of city workers have quit their jobs out of frustration with the stressful work environment, low pay and lack of a real voice. On top of that, workers are now facing on-going dangerous working conditions with the Omnicron variant of COVID-19 rapidly spreading across our communities and the City doing little to nothing to protect workers.
After a brief rally and press conference outside City Hall, workers will go inside and also speak at the full City Council meeting.
Quotes for City Workers and Faith Community Allies:
Alfred “Red” McClenny, Equipment Operator IV, Waste Management, Public Works
“We have to confront this systematic racism and racial disparity that manipulates the city’s decision making when it comes to social and economic equality. I feel collective bargaining is a step to help us bridge that racial divide.”
Terry Green, Utility Mechanic II, Water Distribution, Public Utilities
“Working in the water department is becoming completely impossible due to so many staff leaving. The city used to have eight water crews, now we are down to less than three crews to cover the whole city. We are working lots of overtime to cover all the water main breaks and keep the water running for the residents. We need a real voice on the job through a union to help retain staff and dignified working conditions.”
Patricia Thebert, Behavior Specialist I, West Neck Intermediate Care Facility, Human Services
“In Human Services we are currently experiencing over a quarter of our staff testing positive with COVID due to the Omnicron variant. The City has not done enough to keep us safe through the pandemic. When I read about Dr. King’s support for workers organizing a union to challenge unsafe work conditions in Memphis, and their fight for collective bargaining over 50 years ago, I can’t help but be disappointed that we still have to fight for those same rights today.”
Minister Gary McCollum, President, Due the Right Things
“As faith leaders in our beloved city, we implore you to search long and deep in your hearts to consider the many contributions from our city employees, who have maintained our city through a devastating pandemic, as a cherished tourist destination. Last year’s Waste Management work stoppage highlighted for all of us the overarching concerns for city employees to have their voices heard around wages, systemic racism, benefits and working conditions. Dr. King reminds us that, ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ There is now a historic opportunity to right the past injustices by allowing city workers to collectively bargain.”
Teresa Stanley, Tidewater Sowers for Justice and a parishioner at Church of the Holy Apostles and member of the City’s Human Rights Commission
“The sin of systemic racism has resulted in a disproportionate number of the lowest paid workers in essential public sector employment being people of color and women. It is a moral imperative that as people of faith, we stand in solidarity with those that are working to dismantle oppressive economic practices for the common good of all. We believe that the economy must serve people (all people), not the other way around. This is why we stand firm in support of collective bargaining.”
For more information the press may contact Dante Strobino, UE International Representative, at 757-632-7866 or email@example.com
Campaign website may be viewed at https://locals.ueunion.org/