Last year, Local 400 and its labor allies succeeded in raising the minimum wage in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia, leaving Virginia lagging behind at $7.25/hour.
To get Virginia’s living standards closer to the level of its neighbors, Local 400, the Virginia AFL-CIO and many other state advocacy groups joined together in the #payVA campaign, backing legislation sponsored by Sen. David Marsden (D-Fairfax) and Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax) to lift the minimum wage to $10.10/ hour by 2017. A similar bill passed the Virginia Senate last year on a 20-20 party-line vote, with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam breaking the tie in its favor, but it was defeated in the Republican-controlled House.
This year, the Virginia Senate is controlled by Republicans 21-19 after the scandal-tainted resignation of Sen. Phil Puckett. Yet despite having only a one vote margin, Senate Republicans stacked the Commerce and Labor Committee with 11 of their members to only three Democrats. So when the committee considered Sen. Marsden’s minimum wage bill, it was defeated on a party-line vote, 11-3. Del. Plum’s bill was also voted down in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.
“It’s anti-democratic to stack committees in this way, and it’s anti-worker to block the minimum wage bill, denying the full Senate and House the right to vote on this urgently needed legislation,” said Local 400 Secretary-Treasurer Lavoris “Mikki” Harris. “That’s a set-back, but not a defeat, because we are going make sure voters in this fall’s elections know where their senators and delegates stand on the minimum wage. We will keep fighting until all workers in Virginia have the same minimum wage as our brothers and sisters in neighboring states.”
Local 400 members are out in force battling for a higher minimum wage. Activists have been in stores getting signatures on cards for the General Assembly and recruiting volunteers. And members have come to the state Capitol in Richmond to participate in the Virginia AFL-CIO lobby day and to testify at committee hearings on the bill.
Join the fight in Virginia:
- To raise the minimum wage to $15
- To guarantee retail and service workers the right to full time hours
- To repeal the harmful, unfair “right to work” law so all workers have a voice on the job
“Many politicians in both parties now talk the talk about the need to reduce inequality and get wages on the rise again,” Harris said. “A higher minimum wage is where we find out if they can walk the walk. We are going to make sure it’s the number one issue in November, when all members of the General Assembly are up for election.”