Virginia Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators Votes to Unionize Richmond Schools

On Saturday, Virginia Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators members (VCORE) voted to unionize schools in Richmond, the state’s capital. The vote took place over two consecutive days. 99 percent of educators voted in favor. The official bargaining representative for VCORE will be the Richmond Educators Association (REA), which VCORE is a component. This is a major victory in the South for public-sector workers’ unions. It also comes amid a wave that has been taking place across the United States. labor militancy among educators.

A December vote to grant Richmond public school employees collective-bargaining rights paved the way for yesterday’s victory. That month, the city’s school board voted 8-1 in favor, making it Virginia’s first school district to reinstate collective-bargaining rights. The state had banned local government workers from collective bargaining for 43 years. But, in 2020, the legislature lifted the ban. Teachers are still prohibited from exercising this right. several southern statesThe United States, including Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as Georgia.

VCORE’s victory was the result of powerful rank-and-file organizing from below. After the victory, the caucus was established. teachers’ strike waveIn 2018, and 2019, nearly 400,000 educators were involved with work stoppages in the country.

The Richmond teachers’ vote is the latest in the current grassroots unionization trend in the United States which also includes AmazonAnd Starbucks. These unions avoid lobbying and top-down organization and reject it. labor bureaucracy’s failed strategies.

As VCORE describes its strategy, “We are committed to rebuilding our union from the bottom-up, creating a space to train a network of education workers who are leaders in their unions, schools, and communities. … A labor union should be run directly and democratically by its membership, and act independently of politicians, bureaucrats, and corporations.”

As we have written beforeIt is impossible to replace the power of a combative ranks-and-file organization.

Indeed, VCORE is reaching beyond beyond its unionEngage workers across school districts. It has advocated for district-wide assemblies, where workers can discuss district issues and decide democratically what course of action to take.

Virginia educators face a difficult task because of the powerful forces that oppose public education in Virginia. Their salaries ranks 50thTeachers earn over 10% less than those in similar jobs in the state. The recent teachers’ strike in Minneapolis, instructional support staff — which often comprises people of color — generally earn far less.

Virginia is also among the 28 right-to-workThere are states where workers can have union representation without having to pay dues. Employers are able to easily divide workers and pit them against their counterparts.

Virginia educators must be protected by all unions. National unions and other unions must support VCORE and REA. These unions must be fighting tools to teachers and workers across the nation, and they must be based on democratically self-organized bodies.

Likewise, these emerging teachers’ unions in Virginia should continue to connect their struggles to other unions to win power for workers everywhere. VCORE’s achievement, as part of a nationwide grassroots movement, could pave the way for even more teacher militancy across the South and the United States as a whole, inspiring workers in other sectors. It deserves our full support.

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