Engaging in state politics and organizing in the General Assembly is a crucial aspect of public sector union work. UCWVA is building power at the state level to win collective bargaining rights for state public sector workers in the future as well as addressing a pressing issue for Virginia’s workers now: the lack of accessible, affordable, high-quality childcare. On September 6, 2022, we kicked off our Childcare for All campaign to advocate for improvements to the childcare system in Virginia.
Since then, at the chapter level, we have been organizing our workplaces to demand access to affordable childcare for all students and workers. Similarly, our statewide campaign has been organizing with our coalition partners to develop a comprehensive state policy on childcare focusing on childcare as a publicly funded, public good. The Childcare for All campaign will improve the working conditions of Virginia parents and caregivers now while building our power to demand collective bargaining rights.
Lobby Day 2023
On January 17, 2023, 22 UCWVA members met with over 20 legislators for our second annual Lobby Day. This year workers highlighted our Childcare for All campaign, which calls on legislators to develop and support legislation that addresses the need for affordable and accessible childcare. In addition to meeting with legislators, we heard from members from all three UCWVA chapters at a rally outside the General Assembly.
Speakers talked about their own experiences with the Virginia childcare system. Jon Rajkovich, UCWVA Vice President, highlighted that the annual cost of childcare is more than his annual teaching salary. Dara Emami, a graduate student worker with the William & Mary Workers Union, shared that the waitlist to access his facility was a year long. Crystalina Peterson, a graduate student worker with the UVA chapter of UCWVA, mentioned that her first two attempts to finish college were interrupted by having children. UCWVA members’ stories highlighted that the broken childcare system forces workers to make impossible decisions about their families, health, and future professional success.
Events like Lobby Day help us build political coalitions that supplement our workplace power. As one of Virginia’s largest public sector statewide unions, combining our workplace and political power is essential to our continued success as the largest pre-majority union campaign in the country.
This year we supported and worked with legislators to develop several pieces of legislation that get us closer to our goals.
SB1307 Expands membership of the University of Virginia to require faculty and staff representation (developed in collaboration with Senator Creigh Deeds)
Status: PASSED Senate, Tabled in House Committee (To avoid faculty and staff representation, the UVA administration lobbied to kill SB1307 in committee)
SB1110 Prohibits public institutions from withholding transcripts from students with outstanding debt
Status: PASSED Senate, Tabled in House Committee
HB1423/SB1404 Creates the Commission on Early Childhood Care and Education
Status: PASSED House, PASSED Senate, Pending Governor Action
HB1988 Expands paid sick leave to cover all employees of private employers, state, and local governments
Status: Tabled in House Committee
HB2035/SB1101 Requires the Virginia Employment Commission to establish and administer a paid family and medical leave program
Status: PASSED Senate, Tabled in House Committee
SB800 (Budget amendment) Provides funds to hire two additional full-time childcare specialists at the VCU Child Development Center (developed in collaboration with Senator Ghazala Hashmi)
Status: not included in final Senate budget proposal
During the General Assembly session, we had members and supporters send letters in support of bills, call legislators to express support for several bills, and testify on bills in committee. We can find successes even in the bills that were tabled; for example, 4 of the 6 bills we supported passed the Senate. Over a short time, we have built lasting coalitions with legislators and pro-labor organizations alike. Everything we learned this year will be essential to our continued organizational success. Next year, we will be able to more effectively advocate for bills that reflect our values and what Virginia’s public higher education workers deserve.
How You Can Get Involved:
Our success this year was due to the work of members like you. When members get involved in the Childcare for All campaign at both the statewide and campus levels, both state lawmakers and university administrators see worker power in action and are pressured to take action. Each campus-level childcare campaign will identify its needs, while the statewide campaign engages directly with the Virginia General Assembly to develop strategies that complement our campus-level needs. To win more substantial legislation, such as collective bargaining rights, each union member needs to build experience with both campus-level and statewide fights. This year’s legislative session should function as an example of what successful collective action can look like.
Chapter Campaigns (focusing on making changes on your campus)
- UVA (Contact Cecelia Parks, firstname.lastname@example.org)
- VCU (Contact Brionna Nomi, email@example.com)
- W&M (Contact Zarah Quinn, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Statewide Campaign (focused on making changes through the General Assembly and state and local elections)