RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Mayor Levar Stoney and Richmond’s City Council have reached an agreement on a measure to allow certain city workers to unionize and negotiate their labor contracts.
The newly framed collective bargaining ordinance backed by Stoney, his administration and city council members was introduced Monday during a special council meeting. The proposed legislation comes after months of debate and public meetings with city employees, labor groups and advocates.
When a final ordinance is adopted, it won’t automatically give city workers a place at the table to begin negotiating their contracts and labor conditions but instead create a framework that would make way for labor union elections.
“I appreciate the collaboration between council and administration to reach an agreement on a responsive and responsible collective bargaining paper that will support both our workers and our citizens,” Stoney said in a statement Monday.
During Monday’s meeting, council members acknowledged the long road ahead before workers can unionize. Council Vice President Ellen Robertson said that she supports collective bargaining but has concerns over the effort, calling for more work sessions to discuss the proposal.
City employees, labor union organizers and advocates have been calling on the council to pass a collective bargaining ordinance to give workers the right to negotiate for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
Two different measures were introduced last year — one from Councilmembers Reva Trammell and Kristen Nye and another sponsored by Stoney. However, a final vote was delayed as members opted to review the implications of approving collective bargaining rights for workers.
Specific language in the ordinance was not provided during the meeting, but council members praised the negotiated agreement with Stoney’s administration for establishing a “foundation.”
“I have championed for our employees for years,” Trammell said in a statement. “I am ecstatic to have my colleagues reach an agreement that benefits employees. This agreement moves the needle forward and ensures their voices will continue to be heard for years to come.”
The council is set to vote on the collective bargaining ordinance, which does not require any city employee from joining a union, on July 25.
“Passing collective bargaining rights is a historic moment for Richmond city employees and workers across Virginia,” David Broder, SEIU Virginia 512 president, said in a statement Monday. “City employees have come together in our union, SEIU Virginia 512, to speak out for a real seat at the table to ensure great union jobs and great public services for all working families in the city.”
The state’s longstanding ban on unions for public sector workers, which include teachers, law enforcement and firefighters, was lifted when lawmakers passed legislation in 2020. The legislation did not include collective bargaining for state employees.
This policy change led the Richmond School Board to vote 8-1 last December to make the district’s teachers the first in the state to gain collective bargaining rights to negotiate their contracts.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.