Delegate Jeion Ward, Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw and our General Counsel Gary Kendall kicked off our plenary session by providing their takes on the fast-paced session so far. President Doris Crouse-Mays and Secretary-Treasurer C. Ray Davenport then gave their updates and explained the individual bills we’d be lobbying on.
Keeping with tradition, our delegates made their way to the capitol on Monday under a cold mix of precipitation. Yet, as many delegates noted, “at least it’s not snow.”
Nearly 200 conference delegates headed to a very crowded (but warm) General Assembly building. Small groups of members from the same local union or labor council bounced from floor to floor to lobby their local legislators on issues ranging from workers’ compensation and wage theft to protecting our democratic process.
“I learned more than I thought I would. Lobbying my reps was a new experience for me and it was interesting that some are willing to write off the working people of this Commonwealth simply because we are associated with unions,” said Phil Fisher (IBEW Local 80). “I also was able to spend a fair amount of time with representatives that were friendly to us and they were more than willing to listen and take time out for us.“
At noon when both chambers went into session, we were recognized on the House floor by Delegate Joe Morrissey and in the Senate by Senator Donald McEachin. Those who watched the Senate either from the gallery or in one of the committee rooms saw SB816 pass unanimously AND the right to work (for less) constitutional amendment defeated on a 20-20 party line vote.
This year was Brett Horton’s (IUEC Local 10) first legislative conference, “I enjoyed being with all my union brothers and sisters and it made me feel good to be with a group of people who cared about working persons’ issues as much as I do.”
Echoing that theme, Phil added, “It was great to be there with so many folks who have the same goal in mind. At times, it can feel futile so it’s re-invigorating knowing that we’re in this together.”
“This was my first time at a General Assembly,” said Felicia Miller (UFCW Local 400), adding “It made me want to be a part of how decisions are made in the interest of Virginians.”