When Did Glenn Youngkin Last Buy His Own Groceries? 

Here’s something that will no doubt shock you: Glenn Youngkin hasn’t met very many people who make minimum wage. In fact, he thinks minimum wage workers barely exist: he told the reporters that he believed employers pay the minimum wage only in “very rare circumstances”and that he thought a minimum wage hike wasn’t necessary. After Youngkin made these comments to reporters in Richmond, he returned to the Governor’s Mansion, where he lives rent-free as a perk of his job for a few months a year. When he’s not at the mansion in Richmond, he spends his time on a 30-acre ranch in the wealthy DC suburb of Great Falls; the ranch includes a private horse farm, which allows Youngkin to take a 95% tax dodge through a subsidy designed to provide relief to struggling farmers. But don’t worry: when the pressures of farm life get to be too much for him, Youngkin can also take some time away in his 6-bedroom mansion in the resort town of Jackson Hole, WY or on his 92-acre Texas ranch

You’d think in his travels and his time down on the farm, he might have come across a few folks who make minimum wage or below. As a farmer himself, he’s probably aware that farmworkers are one of the few groups of people who are exempt from Virginia’s minimum wage law. If he wanted to find some other minimum wage workers, he could have checked in with the bussers and food runners at his family’s favorite restaurant, El Tio Tex-Mex Grill in Great Falls: that restaurant was prosecuted by the Department of Labor for repeated minimum wage violations and falsifying overtime records. But apparently, chatting with low-wage workers is not something he sees as part of his job. 

However, Governor Youngkin wouldn’t have had to bring himself to talk to a restaurant worker to learn that minimum-wage workers exist: if he had cared to familiarize himself with the contents of this state study, he would have learned that Virginia has the ninth-largest percentage of minimum wage workers and the eighth-largest percentage of hourly workers in the US. In 2023, a million of our neighbors made under $15 an hour, and half of those made less than $12 an hour. Republican legislators fought tooth and nail to get the wage raised in 2024, and they’re fighting again to prevent it from going up to $15 an hour in 2026: they claim that $12 an hour is a fair price for hard work and that raising the minimum wage higher would cause the economy to collapse. But economic collapse is already a reality of life for minimum wage workers in our community: there is nowhere in Virginia where a worker can meet their basic needs for $12 an hour (the study found that in Tazewell, the place with the lowest cost of living in the Commonwealth, a worker would still need to make $14.55 an hour to cover their regular bills.) 

Don’t believe me? Let’s do some math, and for the moment, let’s just focus on housing.  A survey of rental prices by Forbes magazine indicates that the average Virginia renter pays $1,594 per month, meaning that they’re shelling out $19,128 per year just on housing costs. When Democratic legislators raised the wage to $12/hr this July, minimum wage workers were finally able to afford a place to live on their own. But here’s the bad news: the $24,960 per year you make as a minimum wage earner means that once you’ve paid your rent, you have a grand total of $5,832 left over to pay for food, health insurance, some kind of transportation, all of your utilities, anything your kid/s might need, etc. And let’s be real: this is a pre-tax figure, so you’re probably bringing home substantially less than this, and it also assumes that you work 40 hours per week and never take a day off.

The Office of Housing and Urban Development considers a renter to be “cost-burdened” if they pay more than 30% of their income in rent. A minimum wage earner paying the average rental rate is spending a whopping 77% of their income on rent, and that’s if rental prices are only average: if you live somewhere like Charlottesville, Virginia Beach, or Fairfax, where rents are much closer to $2000/month, you’re much worse off.  Assuming the average rent doesn’t go up in the next two years, this will mean that minimum wage workers in our community will be paying a mere 61% of their income in rent when the wage goes up to $15 an hour. Better, yet, but still double the figure that HUD says you’re supposed to pay for housing. 

Governor Glenn Youngkin has never claimed to be a man of the people, but the idea that he would argue that a minimum wage increase is unnecessary from a lounge chair in one of his several mansions is absolutely grotesque. Governor  Youngkin needs to a) meet some minimum wage workers, b) have a conversation with anybody who has to fight to get the rent paid every month, and c) stop violating the oath he took to fairly represent all Virginians, not just the rich ones. And then, he needs to sign HB1 and SB1 into law (once they make their way through the General Assembly), finally bringing our minimum wage to $15 an hour so that our friends and neighbors have a fighting chance of making ends meet. Join me in calling his office and demanding he sign the bill

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *