HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — This Labor Day, a group of Chesterfield educators are pushing to sit at the table when it comes to drafting and negotiating contracts for their employees.
On Sunday, educators from the Chesterfield Education Association (CEA) gathered at the Willow Lawn Starbucks, known to unionize earlier this year, to sign permission cards, pledging their support for collective bargaining.
Todd Starkweather, an English teacher in the district, supports the move.
“We could have our say on what our contracts say, on our working conditions. And not only does it benefit us, all the teachers, all the employees, but I think it creates a better environment for education,” he said. environment, as well as pay, I think that’s what teachers want to see addressed in collective bargaining.
In July, CBS 6 reported 232 vacant teaching positions in the district. Elise Petersen-McMath, an ESL teacher, said collective bargaining could solve these lingering problems.
“Right now our contracts are quite short and vague, and so with vacancies, we kind of have to overcompensate for the lack of workers, and people are in quite a stretch right now,” she said. “We know with better contracts, people will want to come and work at Chesterfield and will want to stay there too.
The CEA would require approximately 70% of Chesterfield staff to sign a clearance card in support of collective bargaining before coming to the Chesterfield School Board with a proposed resolution.
Collecting signatures can take months and a resolution is dependent on Board approval.
Critics of collective bargaining suggest it would limit taxpayer representation in negotiations and potentially divert money from other educational needs.
CAOT President Christine Melendez said that while there are alternatives to collective bargaining, she hopes the board will consider a resolution, should it come forward.
We were able to push for the decompression of the salary scale two or three years ago, without collective bargaining and we succeeded. So it’s not about salary, wages and benefits immediately, it’s more about making sure that employees have a well-written contract that they can adhere to, that their supervisors can adhere to and keep to them responsible,” Melendez said.
CBS 6 contacted the Chesterfield School Board, but received no response over the holiday weekend.
Educators said they hoped to work to find common ground.
“We can’t do this alone,” Petersen-McMath said. “And it will only show the power of a united workforce, like what we can truly achieve when we all work together and fight for what Chesterfield County students deserve.”
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