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Unions are gaining steam in Virginia, a state that has typically been unfriendly to them

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MBandman / Flickr, Creative Commons: flickr.com/photos/mbandman/23033039562
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As Americans celebrate Labor Day, organized labor in Virginia is working hard for better pay and working conditions.

Virginia is often viewed as a state that's hostile to labor unions. But right now there are ongoing campaigns by unionized workers here in Virginia. Steelworkers are pushing for better contracts, Kroger employees are demanding pandemic protections and airport workers are seeking paid sick days.

Virginia Diamond at the Northern Virginia Labor Federation, AFL-CIO says young people are leading the charge.

"They recognize that while they're working for billion dollar profitable companies, they're not making living wages, they're health insurance is not affordable and they have no hope at all for retirement," Diamond says. "This generation has rediscovered unions, and I think that is the dramatic change that we're seeing in Virginia and in the nation as a whole."

David Broder at SEIU Virginia 512 says Virginia is seeing a shift.

"Every day I get phone calls from somebody else who wants to form a union," says Broder. "One day it's a public health nurse in southwest Virginia. The next day, it's a legal justice aid worker in northern Virginia. The next, it's a nursing home worker in Richmond. People are seeing this movement, and they're saying, ‘I can do this. I deserve better at my work site.’"

He says workers are joining unions at record numbers to demand better pay and better working conditions.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.