Jul 20, 2022 - News

City agrees on plan for employee unions

Illustration of Richmond City Hall with lines radiating from it.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

After months of deadlock, city leaders say they've reached a compromise that will allow most city employees to unionize.

Driving the news: Richmond City Council members held a special meeting this week to advance legislation permitting collective bargaining and plan to hold a final vote on the measure next week.

Catch up fast: Public employee unions were barred in Virginia until 2020, when the General Assembly voted to allow local government workers to engage in collective bargaining, but only if they first get permission from their local council or board of supervisors.

  • The Richmond school system was the first in the state to vote to allow its teachers to unionize in 2021, but discussions at City Hall moved slower.

Details: The council and Mayor Levar Stoney both voiced support for allowing unions, but had been at odds over the particulars of the plan.

  • Stoney wanted to limit union activity to employees in public works and public utilities, citing concerns about costs and logistics as city administrators adjust to collective bargaining.
  • Council members favored a broader approach that would include most other city employees, including office workers and first responders.

What's happening: The compromise, unveiled Monday, takes the broader approach favored by council members, but it includes limits sought by Stoney's administration.

  • City administrators will continue to have sole purview over hiring and firing decisions.
  • The compromise also protects the authority of a future civilian review board to hand down disciplinary decisions.

What they're saying: "This agreement has a lot of pluses for workers," Councilperson Kristen Larson, who helped negotiate the compromise, tells Axios.

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