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Teamsters win runoff for Richmond trades union

Mavis Green speaks with a microphone
Scott Elmquist
VPM News File
Mavis Green gives remarks on  February 16, 2023 in Richmond, Virginia.

The professional bargaining unit is the only group yet to vote on representation.

The Teamsters won a union runoff election Friday to represent hundreds of Richmond City employees, a spokesperson for Local 322 told VPM News.

Once the election is certified, the union can enter into contract negotiations with the city on behalf of labor and trades unit members.

The vote’s outcome means a majority of city employees have union representation in collective bargaining. Richmond’s government is the fourth largest employer in the city and has about 4,000 employees.

Teamsters plan to push for improved compensation, working conditions, dignity and respect on the job, as well as addressing nepotism, said Local 322 President Brian Peyton. According to The Commonwealth Institute, public workers in Virginia make 30% less than their private industry counterparts.

Jahd Khalil
VPM News
Dwayne Johnson gives remarks during an interview on Monday, October 30, 2023 in Richmond, Virginia.

Dwayne Johnson, the local’s organizing director, said unionization would improve city services by providing more structure for employees and improving retention.

The city auditor estimated in 2021 that employee turnover costs the city $6.7 million a year.

The labor and trades unit is one of five allowed to collectively bargain under a city ordinance passed in 2022. It represents about 600 workers, who mostly work for the Departments of Public Utilities and Public Works.

Union workers typically receive higher compensation than their nonunionized counterparts.

Workers in the unit include some of the city’s lowest paid positions, according to city compensation data. They’re also in some of the most high-risk roles, such as powerline and water quality technicians.

“We represent everyone, A through Z … airline pilots to zookeepers,” said Johnson. This is Local 322’s first time representing public sector workers in Virginia, he said.

Richmond’s labor and trades unit was the only group of city employees to have multiple unions vying for representation: the Teamsters and the Laborers' International Union of North America.

When ballots for the unit were counted in June, no labor organization won a majority of votes, prompting the runoff. Friday’s vote tally was 152 to 130, said Matthew Maciejczak, a spokesperson for Local 322.

In June, the fire and emergency services unit chose the International Association of Fire Fighters, and the administrative and technical unit selected the Service Employees International Union. In May, police officers chose the Richmond Coalition of Police.

The city’s professional employees are the only unit that hasn’t selected representation in an election. SEIU is also hoping to represent those workers in contract negotiations.

Corrected: November 6, 2023 at 12:34 PM EST
A photo credit previously misstated the date of Mavis Green speaking in Richmond.
Jahd Khalil covers local government, the economy and labor issues for VPM News. Previously, he covered state government for RadioIQ and was a freelance journalist based in Egypt.