Out of many, one. It’s a phrase carved into marble facades across Washington and the United States and woven into the founding fabric of our country. Whenever a moment arises where the odds are stacked against the many, unification is usually the only path forward -- unite or die.
This principle has been at the foundation of the three great passions of my professional life. First, I’ve spent decades fighting for our environment. I’ve seen that when it comes to tackling problems on a global scale, we need unified voices to carry a loud message to those that need to hear it.
Second, I fight every day to diversify organizations. I know that when a group of people don’t have a seat at the table that it’s time to get a bigger table.
And last but never least, I’ve always stood shoulder-to-shoulder with my brothers and sisters in the labor movement. Their fight is the fight of all working families everywhere and they know that there’s always strength in numbers.
For generations union members have organized, vocalized, and realized better outcomes for not only themselves and their co-workers, but the betterment of all in our society. The core mission of a labor union is to take the key components that make up a company (its employees) and unify them to provide equal and solid footing for the fair and equitable treatment of its workforce and serve as an example to all others. In essence, it is the most American, democratic, and equitable thing I can think of. It is no wonder that the United States is a global leader on workers’ rights -- it’s in our society’s DNA to fight for what’s right.
Yet, it’s not enough to simply know this. You have to understand it, appreciate it, and build upon it. That’s why I’m hopeful that not only will the Commonwealth of Virginia continue to welcome this new era of labor organizing with open arms, but that my home locality of Fairfax County will usher it in by leading the way on thoughtful, respectful, and forward-thinking collective bargaining.
Fairfax County has a rich tradition of tackling new, complex problems head on. It’s that spirit that’s transformed this area into one of the country’s most diverse, beautiful, and prosperous economic engines. However, it’s not enough to attract world class businesses to our community. We already offer incredible schools, safety, and transportation. Now we need our local leaders to set an example for the type of world class workers’ rights that will attract and keep working families, budding professionals, and hungry entrepreneurs here. The Board of Supervisors can do that by passing a meaningful collective bargaining ordinance.
If we’re going to live out the values we preach; if we’re going to stand up in front of working families year after year and tell them we’re here to fight with them; if we’re going to truly live up to the One Fairfax policy, then we need to admit that out of the many that make up Fairfax County, we can never be one until we recognize that its most significant constituency is that of its dedicated workforce across every industry.
Whether you're a fellow civil servant, advocate, worker, or simply a citizen that appreciates a 40-hour workweek, a newfound ability to work from home, or the sacrifices so many made to keep our community afloat through this pandemic, I encourage you to reflect on the many benefits we’ve all reaped from generations of labor organizing, learn more about how pivotal a tool collective bargaining truly is, and call on the County to pass collective bargaining today.
Andres Jimenez is an at-large Planning Commissioner in Fairfax County and sits on the Commonwealth's Attorneys Advisory Council on Criminal Justice Reform, among other community service positions.