With Labor Day coming up on Monday, a couple of the leading unions and labor organizing groups in Alexandria say they’ve seen substantial gains but there’s still work to be done.
Collective bargaining for public safety agencies was one of the leading issues early in late 2021 and early 2022. Labor activists were also critical of the city’s involvement in financing the development of the Hotel Heron in Old Town, saying the city should leverage its position to ensure better wages and treatment of employees.
In recent years, Alexandria labor activists have also worked with human rights advocates in protests against evictions and poor living conditions.
The Northern Virginia Labor Federation (NoVA Labor) is an umbrella organization that encompasses unions in all segments of the economy. Virginia Diamond, President of the NoVA Labor, said the organization includes 55 different labor organizations and 70,000 members across the state.
Diamond said union organizing is on the rise as Virginia’s workforce grapples with the economic impact of the pandemic.
“This year NoVA Labor has seen a great upsurge in union organizing,” Diamond said. “This is a result of the impact of the pandemic on workers, as well as a generational revolt against an economy that offers young workers little hope for the future.”
Alexandria in particular has been at the forefront of union organizing in Virginia, Diamond said.
“Alexandria is a progressive community that values equity and economic justice, so there is widespread support for unions,” Diamond said. “When the General Assembly adopted a statute enabling localities to allow public employees to engage in collective bargaining, Alexandria was the first locality in Virginia to adopt such an ordinance.”
Diamond said one of the major labor concerns is wage theft and exploitation in the construction industry.
“Soon the City will address this problem by adopting a prevailing wage and using community benefit agreements, also known as project labor agreements,” Diamond said.
Beyond combatting wage theft, Diamond said one of the critical pieces of labor reform is offering low-income communities in Alexandria better access to higher-paying trades and careers.
“Building trades unions are reaching out to low-income communities in Alexandria to offer free paid apprenticeships leading to middle-class careers in the skilled trades,” Diamond said. “The Alexandria Democrats Labor Caucus, headed by Russ Davis and Sean Casey, bring together union members and friends of labor to publicize and educate the community on issues affecting workers.”
Diamond said a driving force behind union organizing is the dire levels of income inequality.
“Income inequality is at a level of the Gilded Age, and unionization in the private economy is at only 6%, down from 34% four decades ago,” Diamond said. “Income inequality is a grave concern to Alexandrians, and the most important vehicle for addressing this inequality is unionization. Just as factory workers in the 1930’s and ’40’s organized and built the middle class, workers in the service economy are now organizing to rebuild the middle class.”
Diamond said she’s encouraged by union victories at companies like Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, Chipotle, REI and Trader Joe’s:
The popularity of unions is now at 71%, higher than any time since the 1960’s. The resurgent labor movement is just getting started. Hopefully over the next year we will see the first union hotel, the first union Starbucks, and the first union health care facilities in Alexandria. With the support of the Alexandria community and city leaders, workers will achieve the dignity, respect and living standards that they deserve. Good jobs are union jobs, and good union jobs will enable workers to afford to continue to live in this community.
To help ease congestion, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) said it will suspend work on many highway projects and lift lane restrictions on interstates and other major roads.
VDOT said in a release that Labor Day is one of the busiest travel days of the year. Past traffic data suggested the congestion is heaviest from noon to 7 p.m. on Friday and intermittently throughout the holiday weekend, Monday included.
“As travelers make their end-of-summer vacation plans before the hustle and bustle of the school season, drivers are encouraged to plan ahead for their holiday road trips,” VDOT said. “To make travel easier this coming Labor Day weekend, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will suspend many highway work zones and lift most lane closures on interstates and other major roads in Virginia from noon Friday, Sept. 2 until noon Tuesday, Sept. 6.”
According to the release:
- All HOV restrictions on Interstate 66 and rush-hour tolls on the 66 Express Lanes Inside the Beltway will be lifted on Monday, Sept. 5.
- Find directional schedules for the reversible 95 and 395 express lanes, and information for the 495 Express Lanes at www.expresslanes.com.
Image via Google Maps
This coming Monday, September 6, is Labor Day and a number of city government offices and facilities will be closed.
The biggest event of the three-day weekend will be the day before Labor Day — Sunday, September 5. The annual Old Town Festival of Speed & Style will bring crowds to marvel at classic and beautiful rides along King Street.
City services will shift to a holiday schedule the next day. Trash collection will move to Tuesday, parking enforcement at metered spaces will be lifted, and it will be your last chance to enjoy public pools.
The city has listed the following closures and other changes planned for the week of September 6.
Resource Recovery: Residential refuse and recycling will not be collected September 6. Collection services will be delayed by one day during the week of September 6: Monday’s collection will be on Tuesday; Tuesday’s collection, on Wednesday; Wednesday’s collection, on Thursday; and Thursday’s collection, on Friday. Visit Resource Recovery for more information. The Household Hazardous Waste and Electronics Collection Center (3224 Colvin St.) will be closed Monday, September 6.
Animal Shelter: The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (4101 Eisenhower Ave.) will be open weekend hours by appointment on September 6. To make an appointment, visit AlexandriaAnimals.org/Adopt-By-Appointment or call 703.746.4774. For an animal emergency, call 703.746.4444.
Health Facilities: The Alexandria Health Department (4480 King St.), the Flora Krause Casey Health Center (1200 N. Howard St.) and the Teen Wellness Center at Alexandria City High School (3329 King St.) will be closed September 6.
Historic Alexandria: On September 6, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum (105-107 S. Fairfax St.) will be open regular hours, from 1 to 5 p.m. All other City museums will be closed. For more information, visit alexandriava.gov/Historic and follow Historic Alexandria on social media or call 703.746.4554.
Hotlines: All emergency hotlines operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including the child protective services hotline at 703.746.5800; the domestic violence hotline at 703.746.4911; the emergency services for mental health or substance abuse crisis hotline at 703.746.3401; the adult protective services hotline at 703.746.5778; and the sexual assault hotline at 703.683.7273.
Libraries: All Alexandria Library branches and the Alexandria Law Library (520 King St.) will be closed September 6. Visit the Alexandria Library website for more information.
Parking: On September 6, the Alexandria Police Department will suspend enforcement of parking restrictions at metered spaces, residential permit parking districts and other areas with posted parking time limits. This suspension of enforcement applies only to the restrictions at legal parking spaces and does not permit parking in any location normally prohibited (for example, no-parking zones, loading zones or spaces for persons with disabilities). Temporary no-parking signs will be enforced September 6.
Impound Lot: The City’s Impound Facility (5249 Eisenhower Ave.) will be closed September 6. The Impound Facility is closed every Saturday and Sunday and on all observed City holidays. Fees will continue to accrue on Saturdays and Sundays but not on holidays.
Recreation and Arts Centers: On September 6, the Charles Houston (901 Wythe Street) and Patrick Henry (4653 Taney Ave.) recreation centers will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union St.) will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Chinquapin Park Recreation Center & Aquatics Facility (3210 King St.) and all other facilities will be closed. Visit alexandriava.gov/Recreation for more information.
Outdoor Pools: Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron St.) and Warwick Pool (3301 Landover St.) will be open from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. September 6. Visit alexandriav.gov/Aquatics for more information.
Schools: All Alexandria City Public Schools and administrative offices will be closed Friday, September 3 and Monday, September 6.
Courts: On September 6, the Alexandria Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, Alexandria Circuit Court, Alexandria General District Court, Alexandria Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court and Court Service Unit (520 King St.) will be closed.
Department of Motor Vehicles: All Virginia DMV locations in Northern Virginia (including 2681 Mill Rd.) are open by appointment only. Many DMV services are available either online or by visiting dmvNOW.com/appt to schedule an appointment. Walk-in services are not available at this time.
Transit: On September 6, the Alexandria Transit Company’s fare-free DASH bus service will operate on a Sunday schedule. The free King Street Trolley will operate from King Street Metro to Alexandria City Hall/Market Square, with service every 15 minutes, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Visit dashbus.com for more information.
Alexandria City Public Schools reiterated in a School Board meeting last Friday (May 15) that the upcoming school year won’t start before Labor Day (Sept. 7) but the next school year likely will.
In a memo to the board, Chief Human Resources Officer Stephen Wilkins said that Calendar Committee recommended the 2021-2022 school year start at on Aug. 28. School officials warned, however, that this could change depending on the long-term impact of COVID-19.
“We may be revisiting the 2021-2022 calendar again,” Hutchings said. “It may look completely different than what we have presented… With everything that’s happening with the pandemic, calendars for this year and next year could look different.”
The school district said earlier that the state legislature’s change to the requirement that schools start after Labor Day — colloquially known as the King’s Dominion Rule — came too late to give families enough time to plan for the schedule change in the 2020-2021 school year.
While officials said Alexandria is not alone in pushing back plans to start before Labor Day until the 2021-2022 school year, the school system shouldn’t fall behind other jurisdictions moving to a pre-Labor Day start to ensure that Alexandria students have as much academic time as students in other regional jurisdictions.
“We reviewed the calendars for our region,” Wilkins said. “Many jurisdictions have a pre-Labor Day start. Our concern was to align our calendars with our neighbors.”
The School Board is scheduled to vote on the calendar recommendation in one of its meetings later this month.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
After some back and forth decision, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) has announced that having school start earlier than Labor Day next year would do more harm than good.
For years, local school districts were prohibited from starting school before Labor Day under a law colloquially known as the Kings Dominion law. In February, the Virginia legislature overturned the law.
The ACPS survey showed a pre-Labor Day start was the most popular choice among employees, parents and community members, though predictably it did not have the same support from students. Regardless, the school system decided that more notice would be needed in order to change the first day of school from its usual post-Labor Day slot.
From an ACPS press release:
We want to thank each and every one of you who participated in the calendar survey for the 2020-21 school year. The results of the survey were evenly split across all three calendars among staff and parents. Consequently, the school division assessed that our partners, parents and staff would need more time for planning before changing the calendar to start before Labor Day next school year. For example, changes to the calendar would impact summer school and summer camps already scheduled to be held in our buildings, plus the length of the summer vacation for staff and students alike.
ACPS said next year’s calendar will closely follow this year’s, allowing more time for planning for a potential pre-Labor Day start in 2021. The new, proposed calendar has Tuesday, Sept. 8 set as the first day of school.
Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudoun counties are all set to have pre-Labor Day starts. Arlington County is currently also considering a pre-Labor Day start.
Staff photo by Vernon Miles