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Organizing Virginia

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As the South changes, the parts that change the most become easier to organize. That’s especially true in Virginia. The last time Democrats in the commonwealth had the trifecta, they mostly dropped the ball on labor, as there are still recalcitrant “business-oriented” Democrats who don’t see that opposing unions is as evil as opposing abortion rights or gay marriage. But they did at least pass a law that allowed for collective bargaining for public employees. It has now paid off big for the teachers and staff of Fairfax County schools.

Public school employees in one of the biggest school districts in the U.S. have voted overwhelmingly to form unions, capitalizing on a recent Virginia law that allows for collective bargaining in the public sector.

The two votes in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Fairfax County covered more than 27,000 workers, putting them among the largest union elections in recent years. The county’s teachers voted nearly 97% in favor of unionizing, while the operations staff, which includes custodians, food workers and bus drivers, voted nearly 81% in favor.

A spokesperson for Fairfax County Public Schools could not immediately be reached for comment Monday. The election results were released Monday by the two unions representing the workers, the Fairfax Education Association and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers.

Leslie Houston, president of the Fairfax Education Association, said in a statement that the unions would focus on “securing fair compensation and living wages for all.”

Until not long ago, Virginia was one of a small handful of states that barred public-sector collective bargaining, forbidding workers from negotiating over wages and benefits since a state Supreme Court decision in 1977. But as Virginia has shifted from red to blue in recent years, it’s become more welcoming to organized labor, a pillar of the Democratic Party.

That’s a lot of workers.

The next time Dems have the trifecta in Virginia, which after Youngkin’s idiocy had better happen after the 25 governor elections, they have to repeal the state’s right to work law. That would really welcome unions into the South and start changing the entire political tenor of the region.

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