Now that we have a progressive majority in Virginia’s General Assembly, we can take on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour in Virginia! It’s shameful that tens of thousands of workers in the Commonwealth are paid $7.25 an hour. People can’t raise their families with dignity with those kinds of wages, forcing many workers to cobble together a few minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet.
Most people making $7.25 an hour are adults who work full time in retail or fast food. Let’s debunk right now the idea that most minimum wage earners are high schoolers working part-time gigs just to make extra money to put gas in the car. If we had a $15/hour minimum wage in Virginia, people would have more financial stability and provide more for their families. We can all get behind that, right?!
A $15 Minimum Wage Increases Opportunities for Families
Growing up, my parents worked in retail in Northern Virginia. The main reason why I had a decent upbringing blessed with opportunity was because they earned more than a minimum wage, thanks to their union––UFCW Local 400 retail workers unite! (Also, let’s also get rid of Virginia’s right to work law so more workers can unionize in Virginia, but that’s a different subject.)
I want all working families in Virginia to have the same opportunities I had when growing up–– to live with financial security so they don’t have to worry about where the next meal is coming from, how they’re going to pay for a roof over their head, or how they will put clothes on their children.
Most Low-Wage Workers Are People of Color and Women
Raising the minimum wage to $15 is also an issue of racial and gender justice since most low-wage workers are people of color and women. During the 2018 General Assembly, some workers with the Fight for $15 campaign shared their stories before the Senate Finance Committee about how raising the minimum wage would benefit their families. The people that shared their stories were mostly women of color and they were openly mocked by Republican members of the committee.
I remember state Senator Bill Stanley (R) giving the old “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” speech during the hearing where he reminisced about working as a teenager while earning a minimum wage and how he did just fine! What a slap in the face to the workers who brought their children to the General Assembly that day to show the human cost of being underpaid.
Clearly, Senator Stanley didn’t have a family to support when he worked his minimum wage job and surely, plenty of white male privilege got him to where he is today.
The good news is that we now have a progressive majority in the General Assembly, but that doesn’t mean passing a $15/hr minimum wage will be an easy fight. During the 2020 General Assembly, we won’t have to listen to Stanley’s condescending remarks (no guarantee on that, though), but we’ll have to put a lot of pressure on lawmakers to vote in favor of supporting working families in Virginia.
During the last General Assembly session, former state Senator Rosalyn Dance’s $15 minimum wage bill advanced out of committee. That was the first time that happened––EVER! Unfortunately, Republicans killed it on the Senate floor, but during the 2020 General Assembly session, you can expect more justice for Virginia workers! Sign on to be a co-sponsor of the Virginia For All of Us campaign so you can receive updates on raising the wage in Virginia!