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In historic election, Arlington County, Virginia, workers choose AFSCME

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In historic election, Arlington County, Virginia, workers choose AFSCME
By AFSCME Staff ·

In a historic election, Arlington County, Virginia, service, labor and trades workers voted overwhelmingly to join AFSCME Council 20.

They are among the first public service workers in the state to unionize since 2020, when a worker-led campaign successfully overturned a decades-old state law that banned collective bargaining in the public sector.

“I’m enormously proud to be standing with my co-workers and using our voices together to make our community and our families stronger,” James Rodriguez, president of AFSCME Local 3001, said in a press release. “Together, we’ll bargain a strong contract that can address the disparity in wages between Arlington County and similar communities and expand our healthcare benefits and retirement plans.”

The workers voted 117 to 12 this month in favor of joining AFSCME. As a result, some 343 service, labor and trades workers in Arlington County will begin bargaining a first contract, focusing on issues such as wage increases, improving health care and retirement benefits and more.

The vote, held by mail from July 1 to 21, was the culmination of an organizing campaign that overcame significant disruptions caused by the pandemic. Despite the obstacles, the workers succeeded by focusing on digital organizing via video conferencing, text messaging and other online communities, adapting their campaign to the circumstances until they were able to resume face-to-face meetings.

In 2020, AFSCME led the fight to overturn a 44-year-old state law that banned collective bargaining in the public sector. The repeal originated in a bill sponsored by Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman, an AFSCME member.

"Tens of thousands of public service workers in Virginia will have the freedom to collectively bargain and speak up together to make Virginia's communities safer, healthier and stronger,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said at the time.

Since then, the city of Alexandria and Arlington County have approved ordinances allowing public service workers to collectively bargain. Just this spring, the Arlington School Board approved a resolution allowing teachers and staff to collectively bargain, following on the heels of similar action in Richmond.

This latest union victory is but the beginning of organizing in the commonwealth and adds to a growing wave of organizing and labor victories across the country, including at institutions such as the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Daniel Boone Regional Library System in Missouri, and more.

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