Home » History

History

Introduction and Background

Prior to the formation of Virginia Organizing, formerly known as the Virginia Organizing Project (VOP), no statewide organization existed in Virginia to encourage the active participation and empowerment of many different groups of people on a variety of issues. As government policy and control shifted dramatically from the federal to the state and local levels, it became clear to Virginia Organizing’s founders that statewide organizing work was needed.

Virginia Organizing, founded in August 1995, is a statewide grassroots organization dedicated to challenging injustice by empowering people in local communities to address issues that affect the quality of their lives. Virginia Organizing especially encourages the participation of those who have traditionally had little or no voice in our society. By building relationships with diverse individuals and groups throughout Virginia, Virginia Organizing enhances their ability to work together at a statewide level, democratically and non-violently, for change.

The overall purpose of Virginia Organizing is to create a strong political force for long-term change which has a diverse grassroots base and includes people who have not been active before.

Virginia Organizing Milestones

1995

The Virginia Organizing Project (VOP) forms in Southwest, VA. Its first efforts included partnering with other groups to protest Governor George Allen’s plan to reduce Virginia’s welfare spending by $80 million over the next five years.

1996

The first VOP Chapter is formed in Lee County. The Lynchburg Chapter hosts the first three-day Dismantling Racism Workshop, kick-starting workshops all across the state. The board adopts by-laws and decides to focus on two programs: diversity and economics education.

1997

More than 135 people attend the Virginia Organizing Project Founding Convention on June 21, 1997. Federal Reserve Bank President J. Alfred Broaddus, Jr., takes a VOP-arranged trip to Martinsville to meet with low-wage manufacturing plant workers, particularly injured workers.

1998

VOP supports adding sexual orientation and gender to existing Virginia hate crime laws in the 1998 General Assembly. VOP sponsors workshops on understanding the economy and on community development finance. VOP is encouraged by living wage campaigns in Alexandria and initiates campaigns in Charlottesville and at the University of Virginia. The Lee County Chapter challenges the county jury selection process, successfully implementing a random selection process; for the first time, an African-American serves as jury commissioner. The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond sets up a Community Development Advisory Council to deal with issues concerning low-income and working class people.

1999

VOP organizes a tour of Louisa County for officials of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, hoping to talk to officials about community development projects. Citizens in Clifton Forge and Virginia Forest Watch encourage the Virginia legislature to further examine the detrimental impacts of satellite chip mills on the economy and environment and the Attorney General allows counties to regulate local logging. VOP works with Comite de Apoyo de Inquilinos y Trabajadores (Tenants’ and Workers’ Support Committee) in northern Virginia to develop new Latino/Latina-led community groups.

2000

The Charlottesville and Alexandria City Councils and Albemarle County pass living wage ordinances. Dismantling Racism workshops are held throughout the state.

2001

Ongoing statewide workshops reach 1,031 individuals over the course of 71 days, as 18 community groups develop specifically-tailored organizational, campaign and strategic plans with the assistance of VOP. Teachers and community members successfully add sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policy in the Albemarle County schools. VOP co-sponsors a conference, “Community and Business Economic Development Symposium,” with the Wythe County Chamber of Commerce and the Community Affairs Office of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank.

2002

VOP succeeds in getting the Virginia Housing Development Authority to open its public comment process. VOP and other groups push Governor Mark Warner to make major changes to the process of restoration of voting rights, reducing the application from thirteen pages to one for former non-violent felons. 107 straight weeks of protest outside the Courtyard By Marriott results in Charlottesville’s mayor’s effort to work with local hotel operators and Piedmont Virginia Community College to link job training with increased wages. Read more…

2003

The Virginia Housing Development Authority Board of Commissioners vote to remove the “family rule” which requires those borrowing money to purchase a home to be related by blood, marriage or adoption; the rule previously barred documented immigrants and unrelated co-borrowers from applying for loans. Read more…

2004

Petersburg VOP Chapter succeeds in a campaign to get the city to fund a fair housing officer/housing ombudsman position. Amherst County Chapter succeeds in work to name a new bridge over the James River in recognition of the Monacan Nation. VOP registers and mobilizes voters for the 2004 election, distributing 16-page voter guides for the Charlottesville City Council races. VOP publishes 90,000 copies of a statewide non-partisan voter guide — No Vote, No Voice. Read more…

2005

VOP works to build support for House Bill 2735, calling for the collection of data giving the racial identity of people stopped on routine police traffic stops. VOP works to accelerate the elimination of the state sales tax on food, successfully reducing the tax effective July 1, 2005. VOP assists Living Wage campaigns on college campuses all across the state. VOP supports successful legislation allowing private employers to offer health benefits to domestic partners. Read more…

2006

VOP joined with other groups in organizing the Virginia Fair Wage Alliance to support legislation that would raise Virginia’s minimum wage. VOP continued to provide strategy support to Living Wage campaigns underway in Richmond, Blacksburg, and at the University of Mary Washington, the University of Virginia, and Emory and Henry College. In April students, many VOP interns were arrested at the University of Virginia during a peaceful sit-in organized for workers’ rights to a living wage. VOP joined with many other groups to fight the so-called marriage amendment which would prohibit gay marriage. Read more…

2007

VOP celebrated the passage of a tax reform bill that gave relief to approximately 150,000 low-wage workers and prevented almost 150,000 more from having to file tax returns to get their refund. VOP supported national legislation in favor of a minimum wage increase. VOP worked hard to bring payday lending industry practices into the spotlight and held anti-predatory events statewide. Read more…

2008

VOP brought together 13 statewide organizations to form the Virginia c-3 Table (later called the Virginia Civic Engagement Table), a group focused on non-partisan civic engagement activities in the state. It was the first time that most of the largest peoples organizations in Virginia came together in a formal way for a common purpose. VOP hired 50 interns who knocked on more than 140,000 doors. VOP distributed 300,000 copies of our 32-page non-partisan voter guide. VOP worked with other groups and helped get a record 67 local governments to pass resolutions asking the state legislature to take action on the abuses of payday lenders. Read more…

2009

VOP’s 40 paid interns canvassed 142,679 doors across the state. VOP was Health Care for America Now campaign’s lead organization in Virginia and organized health care forums, rallies and press conferences with a wide range of groups across the state. VOP had a wide range of non-partisan activities to get out the vote for the November statewide elections. VOP also worked towards the creation of a national Consumer Financial Protection Agency, generating 6,178 calls asking people to contact their member of Congress. VOP received the 2009 Community Change Champion Award from the Center for Community Change for making a deep and meaningful commitment to low-income communities. Read more…

2010

The Virginia Organizing Project celebrates its 15th Anniversary and announces an organizational name change to “Virginia Organizing” with a new logo! After fighting for health reform for years, Virginia Organizing celebrated the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Virginia Organizing held “Bake Sales For the Budget” statewide to send the message that a cuts-only approach to the budget shortfall is irresponsible and will hurt public systems at a time when Virginians need them most. Virginia Organizing joined with 250 organizations from across the country to fight for financial reform legislation. After years of tireless organizing, the I-81 southwest corridor is now home to five drug courts which are proven to save local governments money and provide more effective and compassionate rehabilitation for those with substance abuse problems. Read more…

2011

Virginia Organizing kicked off the Move Our Money USA campaign in Virginia to call on residents to divest from the big banks and invest in small banks and credit unions. Virginia Organizing made 96 presentations on protecting Social Security at senior centers and nursing homes and generated over 1,000 postcards to Senator Mark Warner. Virginia Organizing saw many local victories this year including: moving toxic rail cars parked in Fredericksburg, fighting gas drilling in Washington County and opposing predatory lending in South Hampton Roads. Virginia Organizing joined in fighting back a slew of anti-immigrant bills in the Virginia General Assembly. A Richmond-based Federal Court threw out Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s lawsuit against the new health care law and Virginia Organizing was there to speak out every step of the way. Read more…

2012

Virginia Organizing began the year by organizing “Broken Hearts Day” at the Virginia General Assembly. We held a large rally on Valentine’s Day to express concerns about our legislators focusing on issues that are divisive instead of on what Virginians really care about–jobs, tax fairness, the economy, and our civil and human rights. Virginia Organizing sent leaders to Washington, D.C. during the Affordable Care Act (ACA) arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court and we celebrated the benefits of the ACA in June when the law was upheld. We also worked on a variety of federal budget issues, including fighting against the sequester and protecting Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and other important programs for families. Read more…

2013

In 2013, Virginia Organizing spent a lot of time on leadership development by working with local people in their communities to learn new skills and deepen existing ones. Because of our excellent organizing work in the Commonwealth, Virginia Organizing was chosen to lead immigration reform efforts in Virginia by the Alliance for Citizenship. In addition, we continued our work to raise directly affected voices in the fight for Medicaid expansion and affordable health care for all Virginians, worked on local campaigns at the Chapter level, and continued to fight for economic justice and tax reform policies that work for everyone. We diversified our staff and expanded our reach in South Hampton Roads and the Petersburg-Tri-Cities area. Read more…

2014

In 2014, Virginia Organizing took part in an historic and bold action to support immigration reform — several Virginia Organizing State Governing Board members and Chapter leaders were arrested with immigrant youth standing for immigration reform. Virginia Organizing placed a strong emphasis on leadership development and building strategic power for change. We won two awards for inclusivity and social justice work.

Read more…

2015

2015 marked the 20th anniversary for Virginia Organizing! We celebrated in local Chapters, received proclamations from local, state, and national officials honoring our work, and joined together for the statewide celebration at the 2015 Grassroots Gathering. In 2015, Virginia Organizing added women’s issues to our list of priorities, made gains in criminal justice and re-entry reform with successful “ban the box” campaigns in many localities and the state of Virginia, continued our focus on leadership development, took action on climate change and other environmental issues, and much more. We also published a book, Building Power, Changing Lives: The Story of Virginia Organizing which can be purchased by clicking here or contacting our Charlottesville office at 434-984-4655 ext. 222.

Read more…

scroll to top