For Immediate Release
December 19, 2006
Mark Bergman, 804-644-1966 (office); 804-269-1323 (cell)
Democrats introduce proposal to increase the minimum wage
Would provide 450,000 hard-working Virginians with a pay raise
(Richmond, Virginia) Democratic legislative leaders appeared in Richmond today to announce the introduction of legislation that would increase Virginia’s minimum wage. Democratic House and Senate Caucus Chairs Brian J. Moran and Mary Margaret Whipple were joined by other legislators, labor and religious leaders in support of raising the minimum wage to $6.15/hour in 2008 and $7.25/hour in 2009.
Currently Virginia’s minimum wage stands at $5.15 per hour. An increase in the minimum wage to $7.25/hour in 2009 would affect over 450,000 Virginia working men and women, which is roughly 12% of Virginia’s workforce. [Economic Policy Council]
A single parent earning minimum wage earns $10,700/year, $4,500 below the poverty line. [AP, 10/20/05] Nearly 35% of minimum wage workers are sole family earners and one in three of Virginians earning the minimum wage are raising children.
“Working full time and raising a family should never be a ticket to poverty,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Brian Moran said. “Raising the minimum wage is not only a matter of fairness and valuing hard work, but increasing the minimum wage will help drive Virginia’s economy.”
Between 1998 and 2004, the job growth for small businesses in states with a minimum wage higher than the federal level was 6.2 percent, compared to a 4.1 percent growth in states where the federal level prevailed.
The minimum wage is not sufficient to cover the average monthly expenses of a family of three. At $5.15 an hour working full-time every week, the current minimum wage covers only 40 percent of the estimated cost of raising two children, down from 48 percent in 1997 when the minimum wage was last raised. An average family of three’s basic spending needs for food, health care, etc. are $2,225 per month; the minimum wage pays $893 per month. [Children’s Defense Fund]
Twenty-nine states have minimum wages above the federal level. Six states passed statewide initiatives to increase their state minimum wages just last year by overwhelming margins.
“Virginia’s hard-working men and women have made our state’s economy one of the best in the nation,” Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mary Margaret Whipple said. “Let us not be the last to realize that mothers and fathers working hard to raise a family should not be drowning in poverty.”
The legislation also received the endorsement of the Virginia AFL-CIO, the Virginia Interfaith Center, and the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.
“We have a moral obligation to take care of those that work hard and play by the rules,” Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Dwight Jones said. “By ignoring the needs of the working poor, we are ignoring the needs of those that drive our economy and our society.”
“This is long overdue for the working class of Virginia and I whole heartedly support it,” Vice-Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus Lionel Spruill said.