Senate Committee PBIs Anti-CBA Bills; New Wason Poll on State of Commonwealth;
February 21, 2022
February 21, 2022
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RICHMOND, Va. — “Stronger Communities. A Better Bargain” – a coalition of labor unions collectively representing thousands of working families across Virginia — today commended the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee for killing Delegate Byron’s bill that would have repealed a 2020 law empowering localities to give their employees the freedom to collectively bargain for a contract.
Since taking effect last year, Delegate Guzman’s HB 582 and Senator Dick Saslaw’s SB 939 have triggered a slew of collective bargaining ordinances. Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, and the Richmond School Board have all passed measures to opt-in to giving their workers a voice on the job. Prince William County has taken a step in that direction, while workers in Portsmouth, Richmond and Norfolk and teachers in Albemarle County and Prince William County are engaged in various stages of the process of securing collective bargaining rights.
“When educators and school divisions negotiate contracts, it results in better schools and that’s better for our students, our families, and our community,” said Darrell Turner, a preschool teacher at Blackwell Preschool Center, and Vice President of Richmond Education Association. “We work with students every day, and by having a voice at the table we can help them to get some of what they need most, which are better learning conditions through steps like better staffing, smaller class sizes, and better technology and supplies … We must protect our hard-fought right to negotiate our contracts. Those rights are far too important, both to us and to our communities.”
“During this pandemic, essential public service workers like me and my colleagues, have been on the frontlines of keeping our communities healthy and safe,” said Tammie Wondong-Ware, a Fairfax County employee and president of the Fairfax Chapter of SEIU Virginia 512 who for over 30 years has helped children, families, and older adults receive quality public services. “We have provided vital services of childcare, transportation, sanitation, mental health services, and so much more. We have been called essential, but not always treated as essential. Years without raises and lack of rights on the job have made it hard to care for our own families as we serve the community … Fairfax County, where I work, passed a meaningful collective bargaining [ordinance] last fall. I personally put a lot of time into working with the county to get this done, because I know collective bargaining is a powerful tool to ensure good union jobs and quality services for all people.”
“This bill would have wiped out years of advancement for public sector employees in the form of being able to collectively bargain for a contract with their employer,” said Joe Mirabile, an active front line firefighter and EMT in Prince William County. “COVID brought many new risks and challenges to our day-to-day. By giving us a voice on the job, collective bargaining would empower us to secure safer conditions and better help our community get through this pandemic.”
“I believe every person who works to make their community safer, stronger, and better deserves respect,” said Luis Velez Sr., an Arlington County Construction Management Specialist and member of AFSCME Local 3001. “As a resident of Alexandria, I was proud to stand with Alexandria City employees as they won a strong collective bargaining ordinance. I was even more excited, a few months later, as an Arlington County employee when we passed our own collective bargaining ordinance. City and county employees are now moving towards a more collaborative environment between our administration and our employees …. We have a lot of work to do as our localities continue to recover from the pandemic and we are stronger when public employees are respected, have a voice on the job, and strong unions to advocate for the communities that we serve.”
“Teachers are going into classrooms with decisions being made without their voice being heard,” said Yusun Beck, a preschool teacher in Norfolk. “Why is only one voice being heard at the table when decisions are being made for teachers? Collective bargaining is that voice for us teachers, and it’s a step in the right direction.”
Virginia public service workers held a press conference last week calling for the Senate to kill the legislation. The Committee also killed HB 336, 337, and 341, which were all intended to chip away at the freedom of public service workers to join a union and bargain collectively for a contract. HB 790, another bill intended to restrict collective bargaining rights for public service workers, was passed by for the day and is expected to be heard next week.
Authorized by “Stronger Communities. A Better Bargain”, a coalition comprising Virginia AFL-CIO; The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); The American Federation of Teachers (AFT); The Communications Workers of America (CWA); Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Virginia Education Association (VEA); The Virginia Professional Fire Fighters (VPFF) and The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 (UFCW).
As the General Assembly passes crossover and moves into the second half of its 2022 session, Virginia registered voters are split on the direction of the state, their views of Governor Glenn Youngkin, and key agenda items before legislators. While Virginia voters show support for some of Governor Youngkin’s proposals, including a repeal of the grocery tax and placing a police or resource officer in public schools, a majority of registered voters do not support the governor’s environmental policy proposals or a ban on the teaching of Critical Race Theory.
State of things: When asked about the direction of the Commonwealth, 45% say Virginia is headed in the right direction, while 41% say the wrong direction. Views about the right/wrong direction of the Commonwealth have remained relatively consistent over the last four years. After his first few weeks in office, Governor Youngkin’s job approval is mixed, with 41% saying they approve of the job the governor is doing and 43% indicating disapproval; 16% say they don’t know.
Differences are largely along partisan lines, with 80% of Republican voters saying Virginia is heading in the right direction, compared to 22% of Democrats and 45% of Independents. On Governor Youngkin’s job performance, 85% of Republicans approve, while 81% of Democrats disapprove, and Independents are fairly split (42% approve, 36% disapprove, 22% don’t know).
“In this highly polarized environment, we see partisans running to their corners on how they view the direction of the Commonwealth and the job of the governor,” said Quentin Kidd, Academic Director of the Wason Center. “Youngkin’s approval numbers are certainly lower than those of recent governors in Wason Center polling early in their term.”
Taxes and the budget: Governor Youngkin has proposed to repeal the state’s 2.5% grocery tax. In this survey, 47% of Virginia voters support a full repeal; 25% support granting a tax credit for low-income residents to offset the grocery tax; 24% say the grocery tax should remain as is.
With the state budget showing a significant surplus, a majority of Virginia voters would prioritize spending the surplus on underfunded government services, such as education, public safety and social services (59%), while 38% say the surplus should go back to Virginia citizens in the form of tax cuts or tax rebates.
A large majority of Virginia voters support Governor Youngkin’s proposal to require the placement of a police or resource officer in every Virginia public school (70% support/strongly support to 25% oppose/strongly oppose).
COVID-19 vaccination and mask requirements: A majority of Virginia voters support vaccine requirements for people in jail or prison (57%), first responders (58%), members of the U.S. military (58%), teachers (57%), medical providers (61%), and members of Congress (56%). Virginia voters are split on vaccine requirements for college students (50% yes to 48% no), federal government employees (50% yes to 48% no), organizations/businesses with federal government contracts (48% yes to 50% no), state government employees (50% yes to 48% no), and high school students (49% yes to 49% no). A slight majority oppose a vaccine requirement for middle school students (47% yes to 51% no) and a larger majority oppose a vaccine requirement for elementary school students (42% yes to 55% no).
On masking in public schools, a majority of Virginia voters indicate that school mask requirements should be determined by health data and information from health experts (56%) versus a decision left to parents (41%). This result runs counter to a law just passed by the 2022 General Assembly and signed by Governor Youngkin allowing parents to opt their children out of mask mandates rather than leave the decision to local school boards.
The results of this survey are based on interviews of 701 Virginia registered voters, Jan. 26-Feb. 15, 2022. The margin of error is 4.2%. The full report is attached and online at https://cnu.edu/wasoncenter/ .
By MARKUS SCHMIDT, Cardinal News
A 63% majority of Virginia voters support teaching how racism continues to impact American society and oppose a ban of critical race theory from public school curriculums, according to a new poll released Monday by the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University. Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who had campaigned heavily on this issue, on his first day in office by executive decree prohibited this subject from becoming part of the state’s K-12 curriculum – a move that only 35% of those polled supported. By the time Youngkin signed the order, critical race theory was not being taught at Virginia schools.