Schuyler VanValkenburg (D)

Senate District 16 (Henrico)

  1. Virginia is one of only 9 states in the country that deny state public sector employees their right to bargain collectively. If elected, will you vote yes on legislation granting all public sector workers, including graduate student workers, in Virginia collective bargaining rights?


  1. How will you work to ensure that every public employee has full and fair collective bargaining rights?

Virginia has already made the important leap forward in allowing each locality can vote to allow local government employees to engage in collective bargaining and the decision to unionize. However, those in the direct or indirect employment of the state government (like graduate student workers and university employees in state universities) were not included in the extension of unionization law. Virginia’s state employees, like those at state healthcare facilities, non-faculty university employees, and others deserve the chance to engage in negotiations in order to determine whether they will be able to pursue a CBA just like municipal employees.

  1. UCW-VA believes all education, including early childhood education (birth-5), is a right and a public good. UCW-VA believes that childcare and early education centers should be publicly funded and run and offer high-quality care and education and good jobs for employees, including living wages, healthcare, and a retirement plan. Will you champion free, universal access to high-quality, public education for all Virginians?


  1. How will you work to ensure access to free, high-quality early childhood education in publicly-funded, publicly-run centers that offer employees living wages and good benefits?

Governor Northam made great strides in rapidly expanding both publicly run and publicly subsidized childcare, and building on his legacy by expanding and reforming both the pre-K and pre-K subsidy programs will be the best way to ensure access to childcare for all Virginians who want it, and good employment for those who want to provide it. This is not merely a matter of more funding, but also of program structure and access to federal funds, and Governor and First Lady Northam’s approach showed.

  1. Do you support passing legislation to raise employment standards for all public sector employees, including a minimum wage of at least $20 an hour or $40,760 annually, access to quality health insurance, paid sick leave, and a livable retirement plan?


  1. How will you raise employment standards for all public sector employees in Virginia?

Public sector employees in Virginia deserve access to negotiating for collective bargaining rights, stronger retirement programs than much of what VRS currently offers, opportunities for development and advancement, and at least comparable wages and protections to workers in the private sector. While local governments have begun making strides in this area for some public employees, a slow-moving state General Assembly means that public employees working for our state government are not getting the same opportunities for better working environments and employment standards.

  1. In Colorado, Michigan, Nebraska, and Nevada higher education board members are selected by popular vote, as in K-12 governance. Given that higher education in Virginia has been largely deregulated over the last few decades, what measures would you take to give Virginians more control over their public institutions of higher education?

There is an exceptionally wide variety of mechanisms adopted by states for governance of their higher education – Washington, for example, includes members selected by its state K-12 schools on its higher education governance board for the state. Before we can move forward with specific legislation to reform Virginia’s disconnected higher education model (which is unusual for having no statewide board at all), we need serious study and commission meetings among the concerned groups – K-12 education, universities, community colleges, localities hosting higher education facilities, employee representatives, and more – to evaluate the models and reforms adopted by other states and their suitability for Virginia.

  1. What else would you like our members to know about your commitment to workers’ rights and public education?

As a lifelong teacher, I am and have been committed to enhancing the employment opportunities for public sector employees in the Commonwealth. From advocating for counselor and school psychologist support to mandating teacher time use and satisfaction surveys, I have used my position on the education committee to push beyond merely advocating for better pay – as important as that is – to also look at the broader employment environment faced by public servants and attempt to improve that employment environment.

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