VCU labor union aims to improve wages, working conditions

Members of the newly formed VCU chapter of the United Campus Workers of Virginia march in Monroe Park on April 26. Photo by Katharine DeRosa

Katharine DeRosa, News Editor

Sahara Sriraman, Staff Writer 

University employees announced Monday the formation of a VCU chapter in the United Campus Workers of Virginia, a labor union that advocates for better working environments. The group organized a rally in Monroe Park and a march through campus to discuss and share the union’s goals.

Contract worker and adjunct advocate Kristin Reed led the event. Nine speakers were present, including a member of the University of Virginia branch of the United Campus Workers of Virginia.

“You are my union family and we are one another’s union family,” Reed said. “This is how it goes at VCU moving forward.”

In March, Adjuncts Organizing for Fair Pay, a university-wide adjunct organizing committee, voted unanimously to unionize, following the example of other faculty and staff throughout the university.

Virginia is currently a “right-to-work” state, meaning employees do not have the right to collectively bargain, or negotiate wages and living conditions, with employers. 

Members of VCU’s newly formed chapter of the United Campus Workers of Virginia protest outside the James Branch Cabell Library on April 26. Photo by Katharine DeRosa

Democratic state Del. Sam Rasoul, a candidate for lieutenant governor, spoke during the event in Monroe Park. Rasoul said he would back a bill in the Virginia General Assembly that would allow for collective bargaining. Rasoul said his campaign staff is currently unionized.

“As a state legislator, if this collective bargaining bill comes through, I’ll definitely be a co-sponsor,” Rasoul said.

Adjunct Rose Szabo also spoke at the event and said many workers, including full-time professors at VCU, are paid below a living wage.

“Anyone who wants to join the union will get in the door,” Szabo said.

Monday’s demonstration was the first United Campus Workers event of their nine-day-long schedule of planned events to inform people about the group. The event series will take place until May 5 with five events scheduled.

Events will include a virtual panel on Zoom for VCU students and parents about how an improved workplace would positively affect learning, as well as a May Day rally in Abner Clay Park, where people can learn more about Virginia labor rights.

“The decision to form a union is rooted in our belief that VCU could become a university that better serves the Richmond community,” Szabo stated in a release.

United Campus Workers has obtained support from community representatives, including Rasoul and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy. 

“United Campus Workers has taken a giant step against the regime of the Old Virginia Way,” Foy stated in the release. “So I could not be prouder to be in solidarity with United Campus Workers as they work to build the VCU we deserve.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Kristin Reed’s name as Kristen Reed.

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