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The PWID Preamble

Equal treatment under the law is a myth. For too long, a heavy-handed criminal justice system has subjected poor and working-class Virginians to mass incarceration. Communities of color bear much of this burden; sentencing, arrests, traffic stops, and police violence continue to oppress black and brown people. Marginalized and working-class communities deserve exceptional representation from the public defender’s office. But too often, that representation falls short.


Public defenders are on the front lines in the fight for equal justice. We fight hard and we fight passionately. But we are tired. We are tired of caseloads that do not allow us to give our best. We are tired of sub-par wages that do not compare to the prosecutors’ wages. We are tired of abandoning our families just to stay afloat. And we are tired of the turnover; consistently losing fierce advocates to the Commonwealth and the private bar. 


We do this work out of love for our communities and love for our clients. How long can we tread on a revolving wheel while our wellness hangs by a thread? As the legislature oscillates, thousands of Virginians struggle to find stable housing, mental health and addiction services, and are inevitably swallowed by the prison pipeline. Public defenders want to fight for the clients we represent. We also want to make a difference in the justice system as a whole.


The time to organize is now. At the office, in the courts, and in our communities.


Organized labor is a challenge to systemic oppression. When working folks - lawyers or otherwise - join together to fight against an unfair justice system, we can achieve victories everywhere. We are justice workers that demand justice; for our clients, for the public, and for ourselves.


That is why we are forming a union.


A union gives us a collective voice. It keeps us from feeling isolated and alone in this struggle.


A union gives us power. It amplifies our strengths to promote change beyond our daily court battles.


A union gives us dignity. It reminds us that we are human beings worthy of caring for ourselves and our families.


We ask our fellow VIDC workers: what does equal justice mean to you? Does it mean more community education to prevent unjust arrests? Does it mean lower caseloads and weekends with our families? Does it mean livable wages that match the cost of living? What about challenging the racist power structures that keep jails full and houses empty?


The time is now to be the change we wish to see in this system. The sooner we work together, the harder we can fight for our clients and beyond. Knowing that an industrial union is absolutely necessary for this fight, we unite together under the Industrial Workers of the World.


Reach out and one of us will get back to you.

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