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Press Release

Fairfax Educators and School Support Staff Win the Right to Union Representation

With an overwhelming vote, nearly 27,000 employees will have collective bargaining in the county for the first time in nearly 50 years
Published: June 10, 2024

WASHINGTON – Educators and support staff in Fairfax County public schools will have a dedicated union for the first time in nearly 50 years. Fairfax Education Unions (FEU) will become the exclusive bargaining agent for nearly 27,000 public school employees. By an overwhelming vote of nearly 97 percent of instructional staff and more than 80 percent of operational staff voting yes, FEU won the right to establish a unified voice for educators and support staff. Collectively, they will advocate to improve learning conditions, promote smaller class sizes, enhance school safety and mental health resources, and increase prep time, among other key issues front and center in Fairfax County Public Schools.

“Educators are deeply committed to the success of every student and know what our students need to thrive. 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,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “In Fairfax County, educators are coming together and making history to collectively bargain so that their students have the public schools they deserve. 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.” 

“In the words of Frederick Douglass, ‘Power concedes nothing without a struggle.’ For close to 50 years, Fairfax County Public School employees have struggled to have a stronger voice in the workplace. Now, those desires have become a reality,” said Fairfax Education Association President Leslie Houston. “This win will be transformative for both Instructional and Operational employees. Our efforts will focus on securing fair compensation and living wages for all. Collective bargaining will be the springboard to much needed improvement for the generations of children in Fairfax County.”

Two of the most powerful unions in North Virginia, the Fairfax Education Association and the Fairfax Federation of Teachers, came together to launch the historic YES for FEU campaign. FEU joins a growing movement of union members across the country using the right to collectively bargain to guarantee staffing for full-service public schools. This means ensuring that, among other things, all students have access to art, music, physical education, and libraries. Here some examples of how unions are using contracts:

  • The Columbus Education Association won the requirement that new and renovated buildings be designed with rooms for art and music classes as well as the requirement of educator input before and art or music room is repurposed.
  • The Oakland Education Association won additional weekly instructional time of Visual and Performing Arts for elementary students.
  • The Prince William Education Association won expanded funding for music, band, choral, orchestra, and other visual and performing arts.

“As a special education teacher, I am so excited that our hard work to secure collective bargaining in Fairfax paid off today. Since the beginning of this campaign, we’ve had great energy. Educators wanted a change, and together we made it happen,” concluded Britteny Thomas, a building representative and special education teacher at Braddock Elementary School.

After meeting the necessary threshold of card signers in both instructional and operational divisions to file for an election, FEU filed for a union election on May 1.  Voting took place June 3-10. The final vote was as follows: 96.92 percent or 7,779 instructional staff voted yes, 247, or 3.08 percent voted no; and 80.68 percent, or 2,318 operational staff voted yes, and 555, or 19.32 percent, voted no.

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National Education Association

Great public schools for every student

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation's largest professional employee organization, is committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA's 3 million members work at every level of education—from pre-school to university graduate programs. NEA has affiliate organizations in every state and in more than 14,000 communities across the United States.