For decades, Virginia was one of only three states in the country that banned public sector collective bargaining. That meant teachers, healthcare workers, and first-responders couldn’t have a say in how their contracts were written, leading to lower pay and poorer working conditions compared to unionized workers.
But things have changed. In 2020, the General Assembly repealed that prohibition, a historic moment for workers’ rights in Virginia.
But it’s not without its quirks. Collective bargaining isn’t required across the state — it’s up to localities to pass collective bargaining ordinances. Plus the law itself is pretty vague, leaving it up to localities to hammer out the rules and framework. Which means depending on where you live, what you can and can’t bargain over can look pretty different.
So today on the show, we’re looking at the state of public sector unions in Virginia. Helping us out is Mel Borja, Worker Power Policy Analyst at the Commonwealth Institute. We’re also joined by David Broder, president of SEIU Virginia 512, and Vernon Liechti, president of the Albemarle Education Association.
Explore The Commonwealth Institute's interactive map of labor history in Virginia.
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