Richmond, Va: Staff, faculty, and graduate student workers announce the formation of a chapter of United Campus Workers of Virginia, a wall-to-wall labor union, at Virginia Commonwealth University. To announce the union’s public launch, United Campus Workers will be holding a public demonstration at Monroe Park today, April 26th, at 2:30 PM, where union members and supporters will talk about how the union can help us achieve “The VCU We Deserve.”
“The decision to form a union is rooted in our belief that VCU could become a university that better serves the Richmond community,” said Rose Szabo, a member of UCW’s steering committee. “Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions. The graduating classes of 2021 deserve a school that models what an equitable institution of higher education can look like.” Adjunct instructor Tom Burkett agrees. “We want to give students the opportunity to learn with dignity, and when they graduate, to feel confident that they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity in their future workplaces as well. We cannot model that if we do not stand up for ourselves in the workplace.”
A university-wide adjunct organizing committee, Adjuncts Organizing for Fair Pay (AOFP), issued demands for just working conditions in January of 2021 through a petition that earned over 1400 signatures from VCU stakeholders and Richmond community members. AOFP voted unanimously to unionize in March of 2021, joining faculty and staff universitywide. Today United Campus Workers maintains membership in schools and departments across VCU.
United Campus Workers has attracted the support of local progressive leaders, including gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Carroll Foy and state delegate and Lt. Governor candidate Sam Rasoul. “VCU sits in the capital of our state. It is the biggest employer in Richmond. It’s one of the biggest state universities,” Says Carroll Foy. “So when faculty and staff, adjuncts and graduate workers all come together and say, ‘we’re going to form a union,’ it’s not just a giant leap forward for themselves and their students, it’s a giant step forward for the Commonwealth of Virginia, for true democracy. United Campus Workers has taken a giant step against the regime of the Old Virginia Way. So I could not be prouder to be in solidarity with United Campus Workers as they work to build the VCU we deserve.”
Delegate Sam Rasoul also voiced his support. “The unionization effort at VCU is not only historic in its own right, but it will be a model for organizing everywhere by showing the power of unionism as a force that can challenge our public institutions to live up to their true democratic potential, delivering results for workers and students along the way.”
UCW’s April 26th demonstration marks the beginning of two weeks of United Campus Workers informational events, including discussion groups for VCU workers, a Zoom panel for students and parents on how working conditions impact learning conditions, and a May Day gathering in Abner Clay Park where VCU students, workers, and community members can come to learn more about labor rights in Virginia. For a full list of UCW’s launch week events, click here.