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Richmond teachers speak out about collective bargaining

Richmond Public Schools
Posted at 11:16 PM, Oct 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-18 23:21:13-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond School Board voted Monday night to create a committee tasked with reviewing and presenting a collective bargaining resolution that would give RPS employees more clout in determining their contracts.

In a 5-4 vote, the board voted in support of a committee comprised of three school board members, the school board attorney, members of the Richmond Education Association or Virginia Education Association and various RPS employees. The committee is expected to give a presentation to the full board the first week of December.

At Monday night’s meeting, several teachers and RPS employees spoke about burnout from extended days with no planning periods and the lack of support staff as several teachers and assistants have resigned.

Some say their voices and pleas for help are falling on deaf ears and are urging school board members to adopt a strong collective bargaining resolution.

Earlier this month, school board members Kenya Gibson, Stephanie Rizzi and Shonda Harris-Muhammad proposed a collective bargaining resolution that would allow RPS employees to organize and bargain for contracts with the administration. Currently, the administration has full control of contracts but consults with the Richmond Education Association on a regular basis.

Educator Darrell Turner told the board that a strong collective bargaining resolution would lift morale and help retain and attract teachers.

“By passing a strong resolution, what you’re saying to educators is that we value you and we want your voice in how the school system is run,” Turner says.

Opponents of a collective bargaining resolution, including school board member Jonathan Young, say there’s little evidence to support that resolutions improve working conditions, lift morale or help retain teachers in school systems. He says that there’s a better way to improve working conditions for teachers and other RPS employees.

While new state law gives governing bodies like school boards the authority to create collective bargaining resolutions, there’s still a ban on strikes and because Virginia is a right-to-work state, employees can not be required to pay dues.