The union representing firefighters, fire marshals and medics in Alexandria, Virginia, are the first public employees in more than 40 years to win a seat at the bargaining table.
According to a release, members of the Alexandria Fire Department will be the first public sector employees in more than four decades to win the right to collectively bargain a contract in the commonwealth. Until 2021, the right for public employees to collectively bargain contracts was prohibited.
The union pointed to tensions ahead of the vote — which saw the union winning 99.39% — with some first responders being required to work hours far beyond their usual shifts.
“This is a monumental day for the members of our department,” IAFF 2141 President Josh Turner said in a statement. “But it’s also a monumental day for all working people and communities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia — we’ve shown that when workers come together, whether they’re first responders, teachers, sanitation workers or anything else, that when we work together, we have the power to have a say in the decisions that impact our lives and the lives of the communities we serve. This win puts us in a position to ensure we are providing the best services to the members of our community.”
Organizer Jeremy McClayton called the vote a “mandate from the workforce.”
“We still have the upcoming negotiations with the City that will run until November, and we still have this year’s current budget run by a new City Manager that we are cautiously optimistic about. But, anytime you win an election with 99% of the vote, particularly in an election as historic and impactful as this, you need to take the time to celebrate with the team first,” McClayton said.
Alexandria firefighters have complained that the fire department is understaffed and has put firefighters at risk.