Charlottesville School Board Approves Collective Bargaining Resolution


School Board Meeting, March 2nd, 2023. Jaya Vaidhyanathan

Ella Mae Price and Elena Tavernise, KTR Opinion Editor and KTR Staff Writer

A dozen “yes” votes rang through the room followed by loud cheering from a sea of teachers bearing red in support, affirming a historical decision for Charlottesville City Schools.

On Thursday, March 2nd, the Charlottesville City School board gathered to confirm the collective bargaining resolution with a unanimous vote. The vote allows employees to negotiate the terms of their employment which include working salaries, hours, benefits, safety, and curriculum. Not only does this resolution impact Charlottesville City Schools, but it gives employees at the local level – transportation, health, recreation, and city hall workers – a path toward fighting for representation. After a long and vigorous process, this is a monumental step forward.

Virginia State Representative Sally Hudson attended the meeting to demonstrate her support: “It’s been a long time coming. I think that one of the most important votes I got to cast in 2020 was repealing the ban on collective bargaining for local public sector employees; because for decades teachers haven’t had the right to organize in Virginia.” 

In December of last year, the Richmond School Board was the first in Virginia to pass a collective bargaining resolution, which currently serves as a model for the Charlottesville City Schools. This progress has prompted other regions to follow in suit, as Hudson states, “there are communities all over Virginia that have started doing exactly what the city council is doing.” 

Ms. Horne, an English Teacher and Charlottesville Education Association Member, notes that “the teachers’ union has been established for years, but this is the first time it has had power – power to make decisions.” She highlights the tremendous effort it took to reach this point, expressing, “We’ve always been there at meetings, advocating, protesting, and sending letters, but what collective bargaining means is you are going to get a seat at the table no matter who is the superintendent or governor.” 

Virginia remains a ‘Right to Work’ state, which restricts workers’ freedoms and makes it illegal to create or join a labor union. The bill VA HB582, sponsored by Sally Hudson alongside others, recognizes labor unions as a bargaining agent of any public officers or employees. This was a progressive stride towards the recognition of collective bargaining by the state. 

Regardless of union membership, teachers and staff will be represented through collective bargaining. Ms. Horne emphasizes that “each teacher has equitable access to voice their concerns.” CHS union representatives Ms. Horne and Ms. Ernst hold meetings for any interested teachers and staff in the building. For students at CHS, collective bargaining allows for greater input and improved learning environments. 

Looking forward, it is likely that collective bargaining will become the reality among school districts throughout Virginia. 

Ms. Horne concludes: “Teachers finally have a seat at the table.”