In my cubicle at the Loudoun County Department of Family Services, there’s a quote I pinned up years ago. It’s from the author Joan Ryan and reads: “Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have.”
My name is Veronica Martinez. I’m a Loudoun resident, essential county worker, and mother to a bright and loving child, Emma. Six years ago, when Emma was diagnosed with autism, my entire world changed. I broke down, worried about the challenges Emma would face while navigating a world designed for neurotypical individuals. With time, however, I saw the joyful experiences ahead of Emma and the gifts she was given. I learned how to advocate and fight for Emma’s right to live with normalcy, dignity, and happiness. I reimagined parenting and embraced our beautiful and unique situation.
Many of the roles I hold have shaped me into the resilient and relentless provider I am today. I am a mother to Emma, a Department of Family Services employee for over 15 years and a resident of Loudoun since age 10, when my parents migrated from Peru.
Last year, the Virginia General Assembly repealed the ban on collective bargaining for county employees, joining 47 other states in allowing a seat at the table for workers like me. As the Loudoun Board of Supervisors discusses what this looks like in our county, I want to share what collective bargaining means for the community, for me, and for Emma.
I know Loudoun like the back of my hand, and I love it. For the residents I support, collective bargaining means even better services. It means continuous access to my expertise developed over 15 years of hard work, and to the diverse perspective I bring as a first generation immigrant, longtime resident, and mother to an autistic child. When employees like me can confidently care for our own families, we bring heightened focus to our work because we’re no longer just getting by in survival mode. Collective bargaining means more county staff staying in this fight doing the essential work that Loudoun depends on because we’ll secure the work environments and compensation that we deserve and need.
I serve the families of Loudoun with so much compassion, and I’m simply asking to be respected, protected, and paid on the job so I can provide for my own family.
Any parent of a child with disabilities understands the costs associated with ensuring that our kids can thrive. Emma’s medical and educational needs are extensive: summer camp fees, medication cost, social skills groups and paying tutors. Over the years, copayments have been extremely expensive and the majority of her needs have not been covered by insurance. For over half a decade, the financial stress of providing for my daughter’s disability has taken a toll on me. I work tirelessly during the day for Loudoun families, to spend exhausting evenings figuring out how I’ll ensure that Emma’s essential needs are met.
For county employees, a living wage and raises provide deserved recognition for our hard work. For me, this money also means having sufficient monetary resources to pay for therapy and medication for Emma. It means paying my mortgage and putting food on the table — tasks I help others accomplish through my job each day. And having a union contract through collective bargaining? It means consistency when it comes to compensation, raises, safety on the job, and a say in the healthcare available to me and Emma. A contract means knowing that my livelihood and Emma’s future won’t be up for debate again in a few months, or next year. It means peace of mind as a mother determined to give Emma a solid foundation so she can be the person she wants to be and pursue the life she dreams of.
I’ve opened a window into my home in hopes that you see what’s at stake for residents, me and Emma. I also hope that you’ll consider my colleagues who haven’t told their stories yet. There are many of us navigating essential county jobs alongside the intense challenges of parenthood. The time has come for the Board of Supervisors to pass collective bargaining rights in Loudoun, and for our community to recognize the humanity behind decisions like this. Collective bargaining is about more than just budget numbers and an ordinance — it’s about giving individuals, families, and entire communities the chance to thrive, even in the most unexpected and difficult circumstances.
Martinez is a first-generation immigrant from Peru, a longtime resident of Loudoun and a county employee for more than 15 years.