LOCAL News :: Labor & Class

Living Wage movement alive and well in RVA!

While the Federal government stalls on increasing the minimum wage, local efforts work to increase wages for Richmond City contract workers and workers accross the state!
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Excerpts "borrowed" from Richmond Times Dipatch
www.timesdispatch.com and the Virginia Organizing Project - www.virginia-organizing.org

Richmond council panel OKs living-wage plan
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan 31, 2007
by Michael Martz

A fair wage for Richmond employees should be a fair wage for city contract workers, a Richmond City Council committee agreed yesterday.

The council's Health and Human Services Committee voted in favor of a resolution that would require Richmond to study the costs and benefits of requiring a "living wage" for employees of contractors doing business with the city. The resolution has five patrons, so it appears certain to pass at City Council's meeting on Feb. 12.

Councilman E. Martin Jewell of the 5th District, who sponsored the resolution, said he is concerned about the city's hiring of temporary employees through private agencies to do jobs such as janitorial services, leaf pickup and garbage collection.

"The price per hour has risen over time to eliminate the benefits of outsourcing," Jewell said in an interview.

Richmond already has adopted a living-wage requirement for permanent city employees, who receive at least $9.62 an hour. However, a push to extend the requirement to contractors' employees faces a possible constitutional obstacle, as well as opposition from Mayor L. Douglas Wilder.

Although three other Virginia localities have adopted living-wage ordinances for employees of contractors doing business with them, a state attorney general's opinion advises that localities have no authority to make such a requirement.

The Wilder administration also has problems with the idea, though it didn't object to studying the issue. "It's not financially viable," said Saphira Baker, deputy chief administrative officer.

However, members of an interfaith citizens group testified in favor of expanding the living-wage requirement as a way to reduce the social problems that stem from poverty.

"It is the main ingredient in a recipe of misery," said Mark Siegel, chairman of the living-wage initiative of Richmonders Involved to Strengthen Our Communities. -- Michael Martz

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State Minimum Wage Flies Through Senate Committee ? Unanimously!
by Virginia Organizing Project

Great news! On Monday the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee unanimously passed a bill that would increase the minimum wage in Virginia from the current $5.15 per hour to $6.50 per hour on July 1 of this year.

Senator Charles Colgan put forward Senate Bill 1327, which turned out to be a compromise bill midway between the goal of $8.15/hour by 2009 and no wage hike at all.

This measure recognizes that Virginia's minimum wage, currently tied to the federal minimum wage, has not been changed in ten years, creating serious erosion of the buying power of low-wage workers.

Passage of this bill is critical; there is no assurance that the federal government will act to increase the minimum wage, as there are serious differences between the proponents and opponents in the U.S. Congress.

Senate Bill 1327 now must go to full Senate for approval, so please contact your Senator to encourage her/his support to increase the minimum wage in Virginia. If you don't know how to contact your state Senator, please go to legis.state.va.us and click on "Who's My Legislator."

VOP would like to thank the members of the committee, including Senators Wampler, Colgan, Saslaw, Chichester, Miller, Norment, Stosch, Stolle, Potts, Edwards, Williams, Watkins, Wagner, Newman, and Rerras. And especially, congratulations to all those who called these Senators in the week leading up to this key vote. They heard your voices!

To sign up for VOP Action Alerts and make sure you get notice of key moments to call and write in support of increasing the minimum wage, please go to vop.e-actionmax.com/