Talking Points

Why should we raise the wage all the way to $15 when $10.10 would be a good start?

People who work hard and play by the rules should be able to raise their families with dignity. Raising the wage to $15 is the best way to make that a reality. No one should be forced to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet. We need to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour so that a person working 40 hours a week has enough money to ensure their family has a roof over their heads and food on the dinner table. Raising the wage to $10.10 means a person working 40 hours per week would make $21,008 per year—barely enough to make ends meet. By increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour, a person working 40 hours per week would make $31,200, enough to pay for necessities like rent, food, transportation and clothing for a family.

Why should we raise the wage across the Commonwealth when the cost of living in Northern Virginia and Southwest Virginia are drastically different?

We can’t leave anyone behind. Everyone is worthy of being paid a living wage, and no one should have to work two or three jobs just to put food on the table and keep the lights on. When we raise the minimum wage, we need to make sure that everyone, regardless of where they live, is lifted up and we can’t do that if we place arbitrary caps on the minimum wage based on zip code.

Raising the wage to $15 might be fine for Northern Virginia, but the cost of living is lower in other places. Why should we raise the minimum wage everywhere?

Your income shouldn’t be based on your zip code. When we raise the minimum wage, we can’t leave anyone behind. The places where the cost of living is lower are some of the more economically depressed parts of the Commonwealth. By increasing the minimum wage there, we will lift hardworking families out of poverty and give them the tools they need to thrive.

Why should we raise the minimum wage when it could hurt businesses?

When we support local small businesses, we are doing so because they are also supporting the community. But when businesses can’t pay their employees a living wage, they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. When businesses increase the wages they pay their employees, those employees have more money to spend at local businesses. Raising the minimum wage is a win-win for everyone!

Why should we increase the minimum wage for tipped workers when they get tipped on top of their wages anyway?

Tipped workers work just as hard, if not even harder, than everyone else, and they can’t always count on tips to make up the difference in wages. When we say everyone deserves a raise, we mean everyone, and that includes tipped workers too.

General Talking Points

Workers in Virginia need and deserve livable and family-sustaining wages. A $15 minimum wage is in everyone’s best interest as it enables workers to better support their families, contribute more in taxes, support local business and help move workers off taxpayer funded programs. Studies show that businesses have actually flourished in locations with a $15 minimum wage – they haven’t seen job loss like they worried about. We need to come together across our differences to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for everyone in our community. $15 amounts to just $31,000 per year for a person working a 40-hour week - this does not mean luxury—but a step toward a family-sustaining income. There is no jurisdiction in the Commonwealth where the current minimum wage allows for an individual to provide for themselves without living in poverty. Working families can’t afford to wait, as they will be reminded every month when they struggle to pay their bills and provide for their children. In Richmond, the state Senate and House of Delegates just voted out wildly differing bills to raise the minimum wage. The House version would get to $15 by 2025 and would remove harmful exclusions of some of the hardest working people in the Commonwealth like agricultural and domestic workers. The Senate, on the other hand, has adopted a bill that would take us into the next decade to get to $15 in most places. The House of Delegates understand the importance of raising a minimum wage that lifts all communities. We applaud the House for doing the right thing for Virginia workers.

Problems With SB7

Unfortunately, the Senate voted for a minimum wage bill that will increase wealth inequality in Virginia. Too many Senate democrats aligned with corporate special interest groups to keep the minimum wage low so that no matter how hard we work, we can’t get ahead. The Senate bill will hold back particularly Black workers, women, and single parents. The Senate bill is unacceptable and we condemn it.Virgina Democrats have a choice to either join the Republican Congress and President Trump in halting that progress, or be on the right side of history by putting people over politics. Last November, voters in Virginia went to the polls in droves and those voters overwhelmingly supported a $15 minimum wage. Democrats either pass an acceptable bill or fail their promise to voters. Under SB 7 current language, Virginia’s minimum wage would increase to $9.50 on January 1st 2021 followed by $1 increases until it reaches $11.50 in July 2023. From there, the bill charts a course that would make Virginia’s minimum wage the most complex and discriminatory legislation in the nation. Beginning in July 2024, a regional approach would be implemented by the Commissioner of Labor who has sole discretion to create regions for future increases. The earliest we could see some Virginians get to $15 is by 2027 while others across the state may have to wait until 2032. 48 states and the federal government have rejected regionalization in their minimum wage laws. It is because there is no effective way to safeguard on preventing inequality in areas that truly need an increase in their hourly wage. The Commissioner of Labor-a political appointee- should not have the power to draw districts for minimum wage across the state. The Virginia legislature should go back to the drawing board and create legislation that is equitable and does not leave working families pathway out of poverty to political appointees. SB7 also exempts full time students under 22, a position derived from some fantasy land where college students don’t need to earn money to survive. At the same time, it fails to remove the problematic exemptions that are fixed in the House bill. And shockingly, it now exempts new employees for their first 90 days of employment. Essentially creating an adverse incentive for employers to fire employees when they hit the 90 day mark.

A Regional Minimum Wage Leaves People Behind

A regional minimum wage would accelerate inequality in Virginia. Since enactment in 1938, the federal minimum wage has set a national wage floor, not a system of regionalized wage floors. Virginia’s minimum wage should remain a statewide floor - not discriminating against people based on where they live and work. Today in the Commonwealth, 85% of Black workers who would otherwise benefit from a statewide $15 minimum wage live outside of the Northern Virginia area that will see the most increase. Same with 79% of women workers. And 83% of single parents.
Additionally, regionalization will increase gender inequality throughout the Commonwealth because the majority of working people earning a minimum wage are women. As The Commonwealth Institute points out, “The gender wage gap in Virginia is already stark: women are paid 79 cents for every one dollar paid to men.”

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