RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)-At a Worker’s Rights Rally in front of the State Capitol, demonstrators asked lawmakers to “protect progress” amid Republican efforts to roll back recent reforms, including future minimum wage increases.
Last year, Virginia increased its minimum wage for the first time in more than a decade. On Jan. 1, 2021, another raise took effect, bringing it to $11 per hour. The last fully approved phase passed under complete Democratic control in Richmond is set to kick in on Jan. 1, 2023, making the rate $12 per hour.
Republicans are hoping to throw a wrench in that plan using their newly won power over statewide offices and the House of Delegates. The Senate–still narrowly controlled by Democrats–appears poised to shut down those effort after a committee killed a GOP proposal along party lines.
“We have that brick wall in the Senate. We need Senate Democrats to stand strong,” said Alexis Rogers, the state director of Care In Action.
A bill from Republican Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), now headed for the House floor, would freeze the state’s minimum wage at $11 per hour and repeal provisions paving the way for annual adjustments as determined by the Department of Labor and Industry.
“So we’re not rolling that back to what it previously was but we’re trying to keep it there and the reason why we’re trying to do this is actually because I think it prices people out of the market who are desperately trying to get that first job,” Freitas said. “At a time where people desperately need work, making it more expensive to hire them is absurd.”
On Tuesday, more than a dozen home care workers with Care in Action and members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) rallied for lawmakers to stay on the path to a $15 per hour minimum wage, a rate that will require future approval from the General Assembly to take effect.
Tony Hedgepeth, an U.S. Army veteran, said it’s time for Virginia to require a livable salary. He said he has worked in home healthcare for 20 years and he makes $11 per hour, in line with the most recent minimum wage increase.
“The reason I got into this is because I had such a wonderful team around me at the veteran’s hospital who nursed me back to health and this is my way of paying it forward…$11 dollars an hour is really subpar for what we do. We deserve more. We need more,” Hedgepeth said.
Hedgepeth also wants Senate Democrats to protect progress when it comes to paid sick leave for qualifying home care workers, collective bargaining for local governments and the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights.