Dear Editor, 

Last month, I walked the picket line outside the Nabisco production factory in Richmond, Virginia, where hundreds of factory workers—members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM)—were on strike for fair treatment on the job. 

Holding signs that read “No Contract, No Snacks,” we marched outside the factory entrance.  Cars raced down Laburnum Ave., honking their horns in solidarity. We chanted. We pressed on. 

We held the line, no matter the cost. And on Sept. 18, Nabisco met with BCTGM at the bargaining table and workers won a fair contract that includes a pay raise and reasonable hours. 

The Nabisco strike is just one example of the giant swell of worker solidarity happening across the country. We’ve dubbed it “Striketober,” because if I were to list every group of working people either on or about to strike, you’d be reading this all day. 

As president of the Virginia AFL-CIO, we represent workers across the state in all sectors, from plumbing to retail. It’s our role as an AFL-CIO state federation to elect lawmakers who will ensure their voices and rights are being heard, protected, and empowered.  

Because right now, our workers are fed up. They’ve had enough with being called essential but being treated as expendable. And “Striketober,” this national moment of collective action, is happening on the cusp of a state election that will determine the future livelihoods of Virginia’s workers for years to come. 

That’s why we’ve voted to endorse Terry McAuliffe for governor, Hala Ayala for lieutenant governor, Mark Herring for attorney general, and a slate of pro-worker delegate candidates for the Nov. 2 General Election. 

When you’re in the moment, it can be easy to forget how much work it took to get there. But in the last two years alone, having a pro-worker majority in Virginia’s government has resulted in real, impactful change and progress for working people.

Here are just a few examples: 

  • In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we became the first state to adopt a permanent COVID-19 emergency standard, ensuring protections in the workplace.

  • Democrats voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour, the first increase since 2009. 

  • Virginia enacted the first pregnancy anti-discrmination law, providing protections and accommodations for our state’s pregnant workers. 

  • And after being last on the list for two years in a row, we jumped up 28 spots in Oxfam America’s “Best States to Work In” 2020 report. 

Here at the Virginia AFL-CIO, we’re committed to championing democracy, both at the ballot box and in the workplace. 

The last two years have been an example of how when working people come together, the sky's the limit. Unions enable workers to negotiate for higher pay, better hours, more affordable healthcare, and a voice on the job. And when we elect pro-labor candidates who hear our voices, who look out for working families, we change lives. We transform futures. And we build a better Virginia for all working people. 

Doris Crouse-Mays

President, AFL-CIO Virginia

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