Workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic joined a video call this afternoon to urge Governor Northam to sign HB395, an increase to the minimum wage, into law. When people who work in grocery stores and home health care are considered essential personnel, they deserve to be paid at least $15 an hour, and passing HB395 is the first step towards making that a reality.
“I have worked at Kroger since 1997, and I have never seen anything remotely like what we are experiencing right now. Even in snowstorms, I have never witnessed the level of panic buying taking place today. We’re facing a glut of customers — not all of whom observe social distancing — without proper protective equipment,” Kristy Lee Vance, a grocery store worker who lives in Blacksburg said. “We’re facing the ire of customers who blame cashiers and clerks when products are sold out even though we’re not at fault. Many of us are working extra hours while our kids are home with the schools closed and unable to work out child care arrangements. And at Kroger, we’re doing it all at our normal wages, without receiving hazard pay.”
“A co-worker and I staff 12 self-checkout counters, all of which are typically in use at the same time. Proper social distancing is not being observed. Personal protective equipment is not being provided. We are supposed to wipe down the self-checkout scanners and screens every half-hour which is impossible to do with so many customers. All we are being given for the task is Windex, not a proper disinfectant. This is a recipe for disaster,” Lisa Harris, a grocery store worker at Kroger in Mechanicsville said. “Until this minimum wage bill is signed and starts taking effect, I’m barely able to support myself. I have to make tough decisions about whether to pay a bill or skip a meal.”
“From people who work on the front lines of health care and the people who work in grocery stores, these are the people who are keeping our society running right now, and they deserve more than $7.25 an hour,” Michael Cassidy, Executive Director of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, said.”History shows us that minimum wage increases have happened during recessions and when they do, they help bring our economy back. Those increases boost consumer spending at a time when the economy desperately needs it. The time is now to enact a minimum wage increase in Virginia.”
“Everyone in our community should have the opportunity to work hard and raise their families with dignity. That’s especially true now when grocery store workers and home health care aides are forced to go to work and put themselves at risk of getting sick so that others can stay home and healthy,” Anna Scholl, Executive Director of Progress Virginia, said. “These workers are essential to our community, and they should be compensated accordingly. Governor Northam must sign HB395 without any amendments that water it down so that all Virginians have the opportunity to thrive.”
HB395 would raise the minimum wage on the following schedule:
- January 1, 2021 $9.50
- January 1, 2022 $11.00
- January 1, 2023 $12.00
After the minimum wage reaches $12.00 an hour, there would be a pause in the schedule to study the impact of regionalism and a second vote would have to pass in 2024 before we could raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2026.