Virginia workers, allies rally for statewide $15 minimum wage

Capitol Connection

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia workers and advocates rallied to raise the minimum wage to $15 at the State Capitol Tuesday morning. One lawmaker, Del. Jeion Ward (D-Hampton), joined hundreds of people at the rally who shouted that 2020 is the year to raise Virginia’s minimum wage.

“Everybody deserves to work and live with dignity, is that right? Fight for 15! Fight for 15,” a rally organizer yelled to the crowd.

There are currently two bill proposals that could raise the minimum wage in the Commonwealth — House Bill 395 and Senate Bill 7.

Under House Bill 395 the minimum wage would increase from $7.25 to $9 an hour in July. By 2023, Virginia’s minimum wage would be $15 an hour. Senate Bill 7, on the other hand, would increase the wage to $10 an hour in July and Virginia workers could see $15 effective July 2025.

House Bill 56 also moved onto its third reading. This bill could close the loophole for state or federal employees who are classified as tipped employees but are prohibited from soliciting tips.

Lauralyn Clark says her hourly pay as an in-home caregiver has increased by only $2 over the last 20 years.

“We get absolutely nothing but nine dollars and 40 cents a week. We have no sick days, we have no vacation, we have no medical insurance,” Clark said Tuesday. “It would not put as much money on the taxpayers, the money will go back into the economy!”

Some against a statewide higher wage argue it would force prices to go up and, in turn, hurt the economy. Del. Joe McNamara (R-Roanoke) claims it would hurt workers in more rural parts of the state.

“My concern is, we’re using a one paint brush paints the entire state and the needs are very different. Arlington is not Abingdon,” McNamara said.

McNamara said he owns a couple of ice cream shops and that raising the minimum wage could impact his employees, most of which are around high school age.

“If our wage rate doubled, we’re going to be going after a much higher skilled level person,” he said. “Everyone will change the way they deliver that service.”

Del. Christopher T. Head (R-Botetourt) told 8News that he is concerned about how other wages, a person getting $13 an hour for example, would be impacted if the minimum wage is set to $15 in Virginia. Del. Head also told 8News that his biggest concern is how the new wage would impact businesses’ prices.

Still, with the Democratic majority in the General Assembly, both Republicans said they’re expecting a minimum wage bill of some sort to pass all the way through.

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