Hundreds of workers and supporters rallied today at the Virginia State Capitol, calling for passage of legislation that would raise the Commonwealth’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour. Before the rally, the group met with legislators to share their stories and advocate for immediate action to ensure that working Virginians can better support themselves, their families and the economy. Virginia ranks as the worst state for workers’ rights. About ⅓ of all workers nationwide will soon be covered by a $15 minimum wage law.
“Everyone who works hard and plays by the rules should be able to live with dignity and thrive in our communities. But conservatives and corporate special interest groups have been working together for years to keep the minimum wage low so that no matter how hard we work, we can’t get ahead,” Lenace Edwards, from Raise the Wage Virginia, said. “We are here to say enough is enough! It is time to come together to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for everyone in our community can raise their families without having to worry about how they are going to put food on the table for their children to eat.”
“I’ve been a home health care worker since 2006. It’s hard to survive on just $9, and if I didn’t have my husband, I don’t know what I would do. Every month, I have to call the water or the gas company to get an extension or pay just part of what I owe,” Brenda Cosby, a member of SEIU 512 said. “I can’t keep up with my bills, and I’m struggling to stretch my paycheck as far as it will go. But it doesn’t go very far. I deserve the opportunity to work hard and live with dignity. But I won’t be able to do that unless legislators vote to raise the minimum wage to $15.”
“Virginia’s minimum wage has been too low for too long. Raising the minimum wage is good business,” Alissa Barron-Menza, vice president of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, said. “It puts more money in the paychecks of workers who most need to spend it – boosting sales at businesses as workers buy goods and services they couldn’t afford before. And when businesses pay more adequate wages, they benefit from lower employee turnover and increased customer satisfaction.”
“Many people don’t know that wheelchair attendants like me rely on tips, and this is the only job I have to support my wife and two kids,” said Brook Shifera, a Dulles Airport wheelchair attendant and 32BJ member from Falls Church.“$15 would really help the health of my family, it would cover rent, food – anything for my kids. This is personal – tipped workers like me really need a $15 minimum wage.”
“We need to earn more. I clean more than 3 houses every day and can barely make by. I came from Guatemala 16 years ago for a better life but with this salary, it is very difficult,” says Elvira Gutiérrez, a CASA member and domestic worker.
Representing Unite Here Local 25, Patricia Namalyo added, “Getting to $15 an hour is just a start. Too many Virginians don’t just make poverty wages, they have no paid sick time or health insurance. They have to spend $500 on ER visits when they’re sick just to avoid getting fired. Today, we’re here to demand that Virginia raises the wage, but also to send a message that we are just getting started. “
Low wage workers are supporting families.
- 6 in 10 low wage workers are women.
- One-quarter of workers who would benefit from raising the minimum wage are supporting children.
- 300,000 Virginia children live in a household that would see increased income from increasing the wage.
Raising the minimum wage is good for the economy.
- Raising the wage to $15/hour over five years would generate a total wage increase in Virginia of $5,534,108,000.
Small Business owners support increasing the minimum wage.
- 67% of small business owners support increasing the federal minimum wage and adjusting it yearly to keep up with the cost of living
- 65% of small business owners agree that “increasing the minimum wage will help the economy because the people with the lowest incomes are the most likely to spend any pay increases buying necessities they could not afford before, which will boost sales at businesses
- 46% of small business owners surveyed identified themselves as Republican, 35% identified as Democrat and 11% identified as independent.
Raise the Wage Virginia includes 32BJ SEIU, SEIU 512, Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, New Virginia Majority, For Our Future Virginia, Progress Virginia, Care in Action, Virginia Organizing, UFCW Local 400, Legal Aid Justice Center, National Women’s Law Center, CASA, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, and UNITE HERE Local 25.