RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond Education Association’s four bargaining units, which includes Richmond Public Schools’ teachers union, have approved tentative labor contracts with the school system’s administration.
Virginia’s longstanding ban on unions for public sector workers, which include teachers, law enforcement and firefighters, was lifted when state lawmakers passed legislation in 2020.
The change led the Richmond School Board to vote 8-1 last December to make the school district’s teachers the first in the state to gain collective bargaining rights to negotiate for pay, benefits, and working conditions.
The four bargaining units in the Richmond Education Association (REA) that reached tentative agreements include those for teachers, care and safety associates, instructional assistants and food and nutrition employees.
The tentative three-year contract approved by the teachers union Monday includes a minimum 12% pay raise over the next three years with a 6% wage hike in the first year, according to Richmond School Board member Jonathan Young.
The tentative agreement, Young told 8News, also includes extra pay for teachers who cover classes or other school needs when a colleague is absent or if they are needed. It also includes new stipends, protected planning periods for teachers, and updated job descriptions.
Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras, School Board Chair Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed and REA leaders will attend a Thursday morning press conference at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School to announce the ratification of the collective bargaining agreements.
The school board will ultimately decide whether to approve the contracts in January. The details of the teachers union contract and agreements the other units approved were first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Young, the only school board member to vote against collective bargaining in 2021, told 8News on Wednesday that he backs “radical” pay increases for teachers. But Young added that he believes the contract doesn’t address the root problem the district is facing.
The district’s issues with teacher retention, Young said, won’t be fixed just with pay increases or other terms in the tentative contract. He noted that Richmond teachers listed other factors over “compensation and benefits” in a staff survey after leaving their jobs.
“I support radical pay increases for our teachers,” Young said Wednesday. “But we don’t lost teachers because of pay.”
Young said the tentative deal will give teachers “I’m sorry money,” to apologize for working and school conditions they have experienced, but that he thinks it would necessarily keep students in Richmond Public Schools.
Efforts to reach Dr. Harris-Muhammed and the REA for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful.