Virginia Diamond

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Virginia Diamond is President, Northern Virginia AFL-CIO. Wife of Richard Bensinger· She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

PRO Act rally

In a June 12 2021vdemonstration which attracted a sizable crowd to downtown Arlington’s Crystal City high-rise office complex, the group emphasized how workers’ rights—and Amazon workers’ and everyone else’s protections and incomes—would benefit if the 50-50 Senate passes the bill. The Democratic-run House approved it in March, almost party-line.

“For 40 years, workers’ wages have declined and income for the elites has increased,” Virginia Diamond, president of the Northern Virginia Labor Federation and one of the lineup of union speakers, told the crowd.

“We have so much income inequality and racial inequality that we’ve gone backwards by 100 years.” Passing the PROAct can start to reverse that, she said.,

The demonstration attracted members and speakers from the Communications Workers, the Electrical Workers (IBEW), Diamond’s Northern Virginia Labor Federation, the West Virginia Education Association, and a new group of Uber and Lyft drivers.

The protest was near “the headquarters of global greed,” meaning Amazon, declared Joseph Geevarghese, executive director of Our Revolution, which organized the event.

While the wealth of Amazon’s owner, Jeff Bezos, has grown to $180 billion and counting, his warehouse employees “work nonstop, get few breaks, have to piss into water bottles” while still toiling “and work in unsafe conditions,” Geevarghese said.

“This is unacceptable,” not just at Amazon, “but at other low-wage companies,” such as Walmart and McDonald’s.

CWA Legislative Director Shane Larson linked curbing Amazon’s greed to protections workers would get from the firm if the PROAct passes. But just getting that vote depends on gaining Warner and Arizona’s two Democratic senators as sponsors. “Even Joe Manchin gets it,” Larson said, referring to the most conservative Democrat’s support of the PROAct.

“Labor law has been destroyed for 80 years,” he added. “And they”—bosses—“benefit.”

“Gig workers don’t have a right to a minimum wage. Gig workers don’t have fundamental protections for health and safety. Gig workers don’t have the right to organize,” said Geevarghese.

And that hurts those gig workers, both he and the Uber-Lyft driver, Daniel Russell, of newly organized D.C.-area Rideshare Workers United, said.

“I do not get paid enough. I do not set my rates. I do not negotiate my own contract,” Russell explained. That counters what Warner believes. “Now I have to work longer hours for less pay…. They can fire me for standing up for my rights, and that is not right. That’s why we need the PROAct.”

Organizing—via politics—also has direct benefits on wages, Don Slaiman, political coordinator for IBEW Local 26, pointed out.

The PROAct, “would eliminate right-to-work states,” along with allowing common-site picketing—a construction union goal—and other changes which make the PROAct “the biggest changes to labor law since the Wagner Act in 1935,” the original, pro-worker, National Labor Relations Act, Slaiman said.

“There’s only one way we can rebalance the power of workers versus corporations, and that’s to pass the PROAct.”[1]

Ending "Right to Work"

On Saturday January 16 2021, the Virginia Our Revolution organization sponsored an online kickoff meeting featuring progressive Democratic Party members of the General Assembly (Virginia’s state legislature) and labor leaders to get behind a Bill, House Bill 1755, in the House of Delegates, the lower house of the General Assembly. This bill would repeal Virginia’s longstanding “Right to Work” statute, which is seen by organized labor as a major obstacle to unionization in Virginia.

Last year, there was also an attempt to repeal “Right to Work” in Virginia, but it was blocked in the legislature by a combination of Republicans and conservative Democrats, the latter including Governor Ralph Northam. The argument for opposing the repeal was, as always, that abolishing right to work would cause companies to not to want to come to Virginia, and thus would “cost jobs.”

At the Saturday meeting, the chief sponsor of House Bill 1755, Delegate (state representative) Lee J. Carter , an openly declared socialist from Northern Virginia, provided an interesting history of “Right to Work” in the United States.

Two other Democratic co-sponsors of HB 1755 also spoke at the kickoff meeting. Delegate Joshua Cole, who represents the area of Fredericksburg and Stafford County in Northern Virginia, pointing out the relevance of the effort to repeal Right to Work to the upcoming Martin Luther King day holiday, stated that the “Black-white economic divide [in the United States] is as great as it was in 1968,” when King was murdered while supporting African-American sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. Cole and other speakers explained that anti-labor measures are also anti-minority measures. Delegate Sally Hudson, who represents the city of Charlottesville and environs, also emphasized the racist roots of “Right to Work.”

Labor spoke out powerfully at the kickoff meeting. Joshua Armstead, Vice President of Unite-Here Local 23, which represents workers in Washington DC and Northern Virginia, Don Slaiman from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Virginia Diamond, President of the AFL-CIO of Northern Virginia, all pledged their support to the bill. Speakers also included Larry Cohen, Chairman of Our Revolution, Sandra Klassen, Chair of Our Revolution-Northern Virginia, and Michelle Woolley, chair of the Coalition to Repeal Right to Work.

This year there are state elections in Virginia for governor, lieutenant governor, and all 100 seats in the House of Delegates. By Virginia law, Governor Northam cannot run for re-election and the issue of right to work is sure to be an issue in the campaign.

Meanwhile, supporters of repeal are circulating a petition to help drum up public support for HB 1755. [2]

Dan Gajewski moderated.

Martha's Vineyard Bus Strike

Martha's Vineyard Protest

"DSA members Virginia Diamond, head of the Northern Virginia Labor Council (third in from the left) and labor lawyer Jules Bernstein (middle), join the Amalgamated Transit Union picket line in a four-week bus drivers’ strike that showed the power of community solidarity."[3]

"When bus drivers on Martha’s Vineyard struck at the height of the tourist season, solidarity from longtime residents, including some DSA activists, helped them win. Key issues for the drivers were wages, which after 14 years of service are capped at $23.50 per hour, and health care, which covers only individual workers, not their families.
Founding DSA member and union-side labor attorney Jules Bernstein, along with DSA member Virginia Diamond and other progressive residents, helped lead the solidarity effort among residents. An op-ed by Bernstein in the July 10 Martha’s Vineyard Times, under the headline 'Union-busting lands on Martha’s Vineyard shores' laid out a strong case for supporting the striking drivers. Management, he pointed out, seemed determined to break the strike and the union to reassert total control over working conditions. Massachusetts senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, along with Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, supported the union."

Strike supporters

Virginia Diamond July 3 2019·

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With Steve MacDougall, Carole Early, Richard Townes and Jules Bernstein. Katharine Kavanagh[4], Bruce Hamilton, June Manning were also supporters.[5]

Virginia Diamond· June 28 2019·

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With Katharine Kavanagh, John Christensen, Holly MacKenzie and Jules Bernstein in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts.

Buttigieg connection

Richard Bensinger July 7 2019· Pete Buttigieg supports Martha's Vineyard busdrivers strike.

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With Richard Townes and Virginia Diamond. Vicki Maciel and Rachel Bensinger also posed with Buttigieg.[6]

ICE protest

Scott Surovell August 22 2019·

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Honored to stand tonight with our Labor Brothers and Sisters in a vigil at ICE's NOVA HQ to protest their PR stunt Mississippi raid to divide families and retaliate against Latino workers for successfully recovering millions for sexual harassment and substandard working conditions. — with Virginia Diamond, Lee J. Carter and Neri Canahui at Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE).

FLOC connection

Virginia Diamond May 18 2019·

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With Baldemar Velasquez in Alexandria, Virginia.

Virginia Diamond May 18 2019·

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With Canek Aguirre and Adam P. Ebbin in Alexandria, Virginia.

Democrat allies

Cragg Hines May 10 2019·

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NOVA Labor recognizes Arlington Democrats as community ally of the year. — with Virginia Diamond, Meredith Sumpter, Jill Caiazzo and Adam Chaikof.

Sara Nelson connection

Virginia Diamond May 9 2019·

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With Katy Flaim Owen, Levi Allen, Sarah Nelson and Ernie Lazernick in Dulles, Virginia.

Inside Organizer School

Richard Bensinger March 10 2019·

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With Robert DiClemente, Jaz Brisack, Michelle Styczynski, Talia Jean Weindling, Dave Heller, Virginia Diamond, Mitchell Jacobs and John Murphy.

The Wexton connection

Nova Labor January 10 2019·

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With Virginia Diamond, Jennifer Wexton and Cindy Kirby in Washington, District of Columbia.

Taeb connection

Yasmine Taeb November 14, 2018.

I was proud to join our ATU union brothers and sisters tonight and DASH drivers as they fight for collective bargaining rights.

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Tomorrow, DASH drivers will exercise their right to vote for a better future. The best path to the middle class is collectively bargaining. Every worker has a right to organize — and we as Democrats need to stand with workers coming together every step of the way. — with Mo Seifeldein and Virginia Diamond at Alexandria City Hall.

Union comrades

Virginia Diamond December 3, 2018 ·

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With Marie Flanigan, Louise Weissman, Randy Ihara, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Miranda Spivack and Colin Flanigan.

Supporting Dems

Virginia Diamond November 4, 2017 ·

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Lucky I'm so tall! Excited to be canvassing with my Carpenters brothers and sisters for Ralph Northam, Justin Fairfax, Mark Herring, and all our labor-endorsed candidates! — with Jose Frias, Ralph Northam, Gilbert Rosales, Nelson Aguilar and Kunta Bedney.

Socialist in the office

David L. Bailey June 22, 2017 ·

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Governor Terry McAuliffe signs Senator Jeremy McPike's Line of Duty Act legislation with Jeff Flippo, Virginia Diamond and Ed Rhodes.

Perriello connection

Virginia Diamond June 5, 2017 ·

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Yesterday my union, UAW Local 1981 - the Writers Union - voted to endorse Tom Perriello for Governor, after concluding that he has a comprehensive, creative program to improve the lives of working class Virginians. He clearly understands the role unions and collective bargaining play in reducing income inequality, and he sees the right-to-work law as merely an attempt to weaken unions. PLEASE VOTE ON JUNE 13TH! #GoTomGo — with Tom perriello.

Didlake strikers

Virginia Diamond June 10, 2018 ·

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The courageous Didlake strikers spoke at the Inside Organizer School Saturday night. They are standing up for their dignity and human rights, and we all pledged to support them! #Didlake #DidlakeDidWrong — with Michelle Styczynski, Ana Ramirez, Alexis Rivera, Maria Garcia, John Murphy, John Burak, Dave Heller, Talia Jean Weindling, Jaz Brisack, Dan Sundquist, Natalie Perez-Cruz, Xiomara Vasquez, Manny Sforza, Chris Townsend, Sammy Bubadias and Oscar Mauricio Vincius-Schneider.

References

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