"It's about fairness" City workers in Virginia Beach rally for a living wage

Posted at 3:49 PM, Sep 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-19 18:16:59-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va.— Virginia Beach city workers union rallied Saturday for collective bargaining ahead of city council elections.

City workers and the Virginia Beach workers union are aiming to make their voices heard. Workers tell me they want to be treated fairly and that starts with higher wages.

"When we fight, we win," said city workers during the rally.

Chants for change were heard during a rally formed by the Virginia Beach city workers union for collective bargaining before the city council election.

"So that we can get the wages, get the employees that we need, get the benefits that we need to really support the people in our community who need it," said Tracy Smigel, Virginia Beach City Workers Union.

Along with the union pushing for the power to negotiate with the city when it comes to issues in the workplace.

We want a seat at the table, and fairness throughout the city, and this is something all city employees should get" said Terry Green Virginia Beach City Workers Union.

Back in May of last year, former Governor Ralph Northam signed a law allowing public workers to negotiate with their employees, otherwise known as collective bargaining. That's if local governing bodies agree to recognize them. City workers like Green said he's calling for it to happen in the city he calls home.

"I think everybody deserves that right," said a supporter during the rally.

According to Regina Hilliard, Director of Human Resources for Virginia Beach, some city employees did make less than $15 per hour before July 1, 2022. However, effective July 2, 2022, in Virginia Beach city leaders voted to spend more than $32 million to provide the city’s largest overall pay increase in 20 years.

Council members approved a pay plan system to include a citywide $15 per hour minimum wage as well as a step pay plan for public safety employees. A step pay plan means an employee's pay would be based on their years of service. That applies to 80% of the workforce. However Green tells News 3 that many city employees still cannot afford to raise a single child within the city limits

"We have to keep fighting. Fighting until somebody hears us," said Green.

Green also added when you compare the cost of living in Virginia Beach as it related to some of the other cities, and then look at the wages workers on the beach receive it's not a fair comparison.

"That's why we're advocating out here today to help level the playing field," said Green.

City Council candidates who support collective bargaining were at the rally and say if elected they will take action on their request.