Virginia Workers Deserve a Raise for Keeping Us Alive

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure how I would be getting through the COVID-19 lockdown if the workers at my grocery store weren’t at the top of their game right now. As I try to map out how to shop so I can minimize the number of times I leave the house, I depend on the stores I visit to be open, clean, and well-stocked. 

Every time I go in, I see employees constantly restocking shelves, efficiently moving items through checkout, and wiping down carts and card machines, all the while risking their lives. Like many of us, I wear a mask to the store and get in and out as fast as I can. But store employees are there for hours, and a vast majority do not have—or are not allowed to wear—personal protective equipment. 

If the current crisis has made one thing clear, it’s that the minimum wage workers in this country are essential to our communities. 

Some Americans will receive a stimulus check of up to $1200.  But as news stories show, this isn’t nearly enough. Someone working 40 hours a week at $7.25 an hour will make $1160 a month. That’s right, now that everyone has to live off of minimum wage we’re all forced to face the uncomfortable truth: it’s just not enough. 

In March, the new majority in the  General Assembly passed a bill to raise the minimum wage to $12 and hour by 2023, starting with a raise to $9.50 in January 2021. Big businesses and corporations are lobbying the governor to amend the bill and push back this long overdue raise for Virginia workers, using the current pandemic as an excuse.

Don’t be fooled. Many of the largest employers fighting back against the wage increase have seen increased sales during this disaster. Large companies such as Amazon, Kroger, and Walmart are pushing back against raises and even basic safety precautions for their workers, even as their revenues continue to skyrocket.

Delaying or decreasing the wage increase is a huge mistake. Virginia’s economy will benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. Low-income workers are more likely to spend more of their income which explains why studies show that increases in the minimum wage promote overall economic growth. In trying to stop these increases to minimum wage, big businesses are hindering our state’s ability to recover from the damage done by COVID-19 and putting their own profits over the good of our Commonwealth.  

These workers have proven that they are willing to sacrifice for our Commonwealth, and they deserve our support! Throughout this crisis, they’ve had our backs, and it’s time we got theirs! They can’t afford to wait any longer for a permanent, sustainable living wage. Tell Governor Northam to sign the General Assembly’s minimum wage increase into law today!