ICYMI: Workers on Frontlines of Pandemic Response Urge Governor Northam to Sign Minimum Wage Increase

Grocery store workers are urging that Governor Northam sign HB395 to increase the minimum wage without any amendments that will water it down. 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. 

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. 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.

Virtual rally-goers say VA’s minimum wage increase shouldn’t wait as coronavirus restrictions strain budget [WRIC, Jackie DeFusco]

“Nodding to the rally, Del. Jeion Ward posted a video on Twitter asking Gov. Northam not to delay the implementation of the minimum wage bill. ‘It’s going to affect 800,000 Virginians. Many of them are those that we consider essential workers,’ Del. Ward said, referencing the state’s nursing home and grocery store employees among others. ‘So why don’t we treat them as if they’re essential by making sure we increase their wages.’”

“For domestic workers like Lenka Mendoza, who have traditionally been excluded from labor laws, a raise is long overdue. Mendoza said she has watched three children for $50 per day and no benefits.‘Many of them [domestic workers] continue to take care of children, adults or disabled people. They are still providing their services and putting their lives at risk,’ Mendoza said. ‘Even in these difficult times, domestic workers are important and we need a worthy salary now.’”

“[Michael] Cassidy of The Commonwealth Institute said low-wage workers tend to spend their paychecks in their communities. He said this boost in buying power could be important as the pubic health crisis subsides.‘Raising the minimum wage actually plays a role in helping us bring the economy back,’ Cassidy said. ‘We’ve done it before during times of recession and so we can go confidently forward in doing it again.’”

Workers urge Northam to sign minimum wage bill [WHSV, Ada Romano]

“Lisa Harris works at Kroger in Mechanicsville and is a member of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. She has been with Kroger for 13 years and said in a press conference organized by Progress Virginia that she would benefit directly from HB 395. She is urging Northam to sign the bill with no weakening amendments. ‘I find it fascinating how fast grocery store workers like me have gone from being considered unskilled labor to being recognized as essential personnel,’ Harris said. She compared workers dealing directly with an increasingly infected public to being on the front lines like first responders and said ‘it would be nice to be paid accordingly.’”

“Michael Cassidy, executive director of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, said that the coronavirus is a reminder many essential workers are also minimum wage workers. ‘These individuals are providing a vital service to us right now and they deserve more than $7.25 an hour,’ Cassidy said. Cassidy said if the minimum wage increase were to go into effect in January, it would help 46,000 healthcare workers, 100,00 retail workers and over 100,000 restaurant and service industry workers. He said this would allow people to buy more and contribute to businesses and the economy as a whole. ‘That’s important because consumer spending is the foundation of our economy, it’s about 72% of Virginia’s gross domestic product,’ Cassidy said.”

Grocery store workers call on Gov. Northam to raise minimum wage [WSLS, Jessica Jewell]

“Activists said it is now more clear than ever that we need to increase the minimum wage, as home healthcare workers, grocery store clerks and others have been deemed essential to the functioning of our society.”

“‘Thousands of my fellow Virginia grocery workers are currently on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis putting ourselves in harm’s way to ensure that people can buy food and other essentials and getting paid poverty wages,’ said Kristy Vance, who also works in a grocery store.”