50 Years in the Struggle!
Since 1971, the Richmond Education Association (REA) has been organizing to defend and transform public education. The REA is a labor union representing more than 1,200 workers employed by Richmond Public Schools (RPS). As one big union, we work to represent the collective interests of RPS employees on the Teacher Pay Scale, Instructional Assistants (IAs), School Nutrition Services (SNS), Care and Safety Associates (SNS), Office Associates (OAs), and Central Office Staff. The REA is a local union affiliated with the Virginia Education Association (VEA) and National Education Association (NEA). With more than 3 million members, the NEA is the largest labor union in the United States.
A Democratic and Fighting Labor Union
So what is a union? A labor union is an organization of, by, and for workers concentrated in a common industry or sector. In our case, we’re talking about a union of public education workers. The union is the main vehicle through which we, as public education workers, organize to defend our collective interests, improve our working conditions, and solidarity with labor and community organizations. As educators, we know our struggle is a special one, because our working conditions are the learning conditions of students. For this reason, the REA doesn’t just organize to fight for better pay, benefits, safety, respect, and dignity for RPS workers on the job. We also fight for a public education system that serves the needs of our students and school communities, and take independent political action in pursuit of social justice, equality, and democracy.
The REA and RPS are unique in Virginia, because we’re the REA is the first union to have won back our collective bargaining rights since they were taken away by the state in 1977. We didn’t win these rights by asking nicely: we won them through patient grassroots organizing building by building. Collective bargaining is the process through which union members collectively identify the major issues facing us on the job, and the changes we want to see. Union members then elect a bargaining team to represent the union’s demands during contract negotiations with our employer. If you want a voice and a vote in your contract, you need to join the REA!
Fighting for the Schools Richmond Students Deserve
We believe that our union must develop, in coalition with students, parents, and our school communities, a program and a movement for transforming public education in Richmond and beyond. This means building a united front of education workers, parents, students, labor unions, and grassroots community organizations to win the schools our students deserve. It is our conviction that both workers and communities deserve a voice in the governance of our school system. Since 1971, the REA has been on the frontlines of the struggle for small class sizes, improved instructional materials, less bureaucratic paperwork, and more autonomy for educators. Join us in the continuing the struggle until victory!
Join the REA!
Joining the REA is easy! To become a union member, complete an REA Membership Application and a union organizer will contact you shortly (click “continue” to proceed to the application).
How Can I Get More Involved in the REA?
Members can participate in the life of the union in a variety of ways.
Contact us, and we’ll put you in touch with your worksite’s Union Representative. Your Rep serves as a steward of the union at your worksite. Reps are responsible for ensuring that the Collective Bargaining Agreement is enforced, and members’ rights are respected on the job. Together with your REA Rep, you can organize union meetings in your workplace to identify issues facing your worksite, and take collective action to win improvements in your working conditions. If your school doesn’t have a Rep, contact us and we’ll help you organize a worksite election. More Reps are better than one, so don’t hesitate to contact us about serving as a Rep!
Every REA member has the right to attend meetings of our Assembly of Representatives. We are also in the process of rebuilding our union’s committees. For the 2023-2024 school year, the REA will be rolling out and building up committees focused on workplace and community organizing, member education, media and communications, independent political action, and more! If you are interested in joining a committee, contact us!
What Are My Benefits as an REA Member?
In addition to a voice in your contract. and power in your workplace, being a member of the REA gets you:
- $1,000,000 liability insurance policy and legal defense for employment related issues.
- Free life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance coverage.
- Special discounts on car rentals, auto insurance, entertainment parks, and movie tickets.
- Preferred group rates for life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment coverage, homeowners insurance, mortgage financing, and college loans.
- Publications and education newsletters, including NEA Today, Virginia Journal of Education, and REA Actionline.
- Free legal consultation and preferred rates on personal legal services.