Fairfax educators overwhelmingly vote for, secure union representation

With an overwhelming vote of nearly 97% of instructional staff and more than 80% of operational staff voting yes, Fairfax Education Unions (FEU) will now represent the interests of nearly 27,000 public school employees. (Photo courtesy of National Education Association Public Relations)

With an overwhelming vote of nearly 97% of instructional staff and more than 80% of operational staff voting yes, Fairfax Education Unions (FEU) will now represent the interests of nearly 27,000 public school employees. (Photo courtesy of National Education Association Public Relations)

By Isabel Soisson

June 10, 2024

With an overwhelming vote of nearly 97% of instructional staff and more than 80% of operational staff voting yes, Fairfax Education Unions (FEU) will now represent the interests of nearly 27,000 public school employees.

Fairfax teachers and school support staff have accomplished their goal: they’ve secured their right to collectively bargain for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Last week, the YES for Fairfax Education Unions (FEU) campaign launched. An alliance made up of the two largest education unions in Northern Virginia, the Fairfax Education Association (FEA) and the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT), the campaign aimed to ensure that Fairfax educators and school support staff are able to negotiate a contract with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) for better working conditions and student learning conditions.

In March 2023, the Fairfax County School Board approved a collective bargaining resolution, which granted Fairfax educators the right to collectively negotiate terms and conditions of employment as a bargaining unit through an exclusive representative. With an overwhelming vote of nearly 97% of instructional staff and more than 80% of operational staff voting yes, FEU will now be that representative.

This means that FEU will now represent the interests of nearly 27,000 public school employees.

National Education Association President Becky Pringle, who attended the campaign’s launch last week, called the vote historic in a statement.

“In Fairfax County, educators are coming together and making history to collectively bargain so that their students have the public schools they deserve,” she said. “They join a growing chorus of voices across the country who are winning with their unions and advocating for better pay and benefits, better working conditions, and better learning conditions for our students.”

“Educators are deeply committed to the success of every student and know what our students need to thrive,” she added. “When we are united, we can demand powerful changes for our schools and students. This is how we win respect and ensure that we have the resources we need to give students our very best.”

Molly Cronin, a Fairfax special education teacher, called the ability to collectively bargain “very empowering” in a statement.

“We’re the ones actually in classrooms,” she said. “We know what we need to actually improve things. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. This is about making things better for all of us.”

“Educators wanted a change, and together we made it happen,” Britteny Thomas, a building representative and special education teacher at Braddock Elementary School added.

In addition to advocating for these educators’ right to collectively bargain, FEU aims to improve learning conditions for students, promote smaller class sizes, enhance school safety and mental health resources, and increase prep time. FEU also aims to help ensure that Fairfax County students have access to art, music, physical education, and libraries.

This effort comes as Virginia continues to face a significant teacher shortage in public schools driven by a number of factors including the pandemic, dissatisfaction with wages, and political fights over education.

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

CATEGORIES: EDUCATION

Politics

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