“How can we have a labor shortage if there are so many people who are unemployed?” Ahh, the question posed by all of our least favorite uncles. I think the answer can be summed up into three words:
People are tired.
Tired of working long hours for little pay. Tired of putting themselves at risk without the respect or resources to work safely. Tired of having to choose between keeping their jobs or taking care of their families. The real question Uncle Whoever should be asking is: Is the problem a labor shortage, or are workers simply — and understandably — tired of being exploited?
Back in May of this year, minimum wage moved up to $9.50 per hour. While this was long overdue, we all know that it’s a long way off from being a living wage. Let’s be clear, making ends meet is not the same as thriving. And we all deserve to thrive! Yes, there are plans for the minimum wage to increase again in January 2022, but we can’t stop there. (Sidenote to employers: in case you didn’t know, you can in fact pay people better. If your business’ success relies on cheap labor, you’ve got some explaining to do.)
The way things are going, we won’t reach $15 per hour until 2026 at the earliest. If elected, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe wants to get us to $15 by 2024. After decades of low wages, that two years is a big deal! Working people need a decent wage. As long as we continue to accept the enormous disparity between minimum wage and a living wage, we’re saying that it’s okay that our communities don’t have enough. Remember, not everyone is included in minimum wage. The farmworkers who helped keep food on our table during a global pandemic are not covered under minimum wage. Does that sound fair to you?
While some of us were beginning long-term relationships with sweatpants, our friends and families were still required to work in person when the pandemic hit. From stocking shelves, cooking our food, to caring for our loved ones when we couldn’t, they showed up. So tell me, WHY DO ALL ESSENTIAL WORKERS STILL NOT HAVE HAZARD PAY? BRB while I scream into my pillow, again. How can we tell anyone that the work they’re doing is so important that they have to put themselves at risk — and then not compensate them properly? I say, ‘properly,’ because the pandemic has been going on for over a year and a half, and one-time payments really aren’t enough. SEIU Virginia 512 is leading the way on this front, proving that we’re stronger when we can negotiate collectively. That’s right, like peanut butter and jelly, we’re better together.
Paid Family Medical Leave
Stuff happens. People get sick. Sometimes worse. How wild is it that when those things happen, some of us can’t take time off of work? We have to live around our work schedules. No one should have to choose between caring for their families or themselves and getting their next paycheck. With paid family and medical leave, we don’t have to choose. We tried getting legislation through this year, and we’ll continue to fight for it until we don’t have to anymore.
Building Back Better
For some, getting things back to how they were before the pandemic is the goal. But that’s not enough. If we’re rebuilding, let’s build something better and stronger. Let’s make Virginia a place where everyone can thrive. The good news is that every issue I’ve mentioned can be fixed with legislation. Since we elect the legislators, we hold the power. So let’s use it!
- Early voting starts September 17.
- Request an absentee ballot in person up to three days before Election Day or by mail/online up to 11 days before Election Day. **It must be postmarked by Election Day and received by noon, three days after Election Day to count.**
- The deadline to register to vote is October 12.
- Election Day is November 2.
We’ll have our Progressive Voters Guide ready soon to help you make choices so we can build back better than ever before! In the meantime, make sure you’re registered to vote!