By Dante Strobino:
Virginia Beach city employees keep our city running. Without the city workers our drinking water does not flow, our streets are not safe to drive, our parks are cluttered and dangerous, our sewer lines get backed up, our beaches are not maintained, our garbage piles up attracting rats, kids are not taught and fires risk our lives. These workers keep our city a beautiful vacation destination. To show your gratitude, it is essential that those workers have a voice on the job to advocate for family-supporting wages, safety amid the pandemic (and beyond), and fairness from management.
A report released on October 25 found that 9 out of 10 Virginia Beach city employees can’t afford to even raise 1 child in the city. Read the full report here.
A majority of the workers in the Public Works, Public Utilities and Human Services departments have signed union interest cards and are now asking the City Council to pass an ordinance, in accordance with the new law going into effect on May 1, that allows city workers a real voice at the table and ability to negotiate for their wages, benefits and working conditions directly with the city manager by allowing collective bargaining. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr took his last standing with city workers in Memphis fighting for these same basic rights. It’s time for Virginia Beach to undo decades of Jim Crow-era laws.
“I have to work lots of overtime on our low wages. If we made better pay, I wouldn’t have to be away from my family every other weekend just to make ends meet,” says Derrick Holley, a Motor Equipment Operator in Virginia Beach’s Department of Public Works, who is quoted in the report. “Cost of living is steady going up and our wages are not. We deserve better wages. With a union we would have collective bargaining to help raise everyone’s wages.”
The ability to negotiate is a truly American value. This is about expanding our democracy. Workers that keep our city operating deserve a say in their jobs. When workers having a voice it helps ensures quality jobs, which ensure quality services that all residents deserve. When workers don’t feel listened to, they leave the city and our services degrade.
“Since Black workers and women are also disadvantaged in the broader labor market, strengthening collective bargaining rights for local government workers should reduce racial and gender inequality in the labor force and potentially attract Hispanics and other underrepresented groups to public-sector jobs,” said Monique Morrissey in the release for the June 2021 Economic Policy Institute report, which can be found at https://www.epi.org/press/collective-bargaining-rights-help-narrow-the-pay-gap-for-local-government-workers/.
Sign a letter to Mayor Dyer and City Council here.