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Advocates, Workers Call For Virginia To Increase Minimum Wage

A woman speaks at a podium surrounded by supporters
Virginia Poor People’s Campaign organizer Andrea Miller said that Virginia’s minimum wage isn’t helping people escape poverty - it’s putting them into it. (Patrick Larsen, VPM News)

*VPM News intern Patrick Larsen reported this story.

Protestors and advocates rallied at the State Capitol Wednesday to demand an increase of Virginia’s minimum wage. The wage has stood at the federal minimum of $7.25 since it was last increased over a decade ago.

That’s about half of a living wage for a single Virginia worker, according to an MIT living wage calculator.

Naomi Isaac, a Virginia State University student with the new advocacy group People’s Justice Alliance, says an increase is long overdue.

“People in 2011 were asking for $15,” Isaac said.

Demonstrators at the rally were calling for an increase to $15 in 2020, but none of the three statewide minimum wage increase bills that have been prefiled for the next General Assembly session meet that marker.

“They’re holding and dangling that $15 an hour over our head and saying ‘Ok, we’re gonna give you that - in 2026,’” Isaac said. “Not only will that be too late, but it still won’t even be enough.”

Andrea Miller of the Virginia Poor People’s Campaign agrees - by that time, the cost of living will have inflated even more, she says.

“It’s always going up,” Miller said.

Miller pointed to the current minimum wage as a big reason why Virginia cities have some of the highest eviction rates in the country.

“People, even when they work, cannot afford to keep a roof over their heads,” said Miller.

Still, advocates are hopeful that with Democratic majorities in the Senate and the House of Delegates, something can be passed. The Virginia Senate rejected a bill last session that would have increased Virginia’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021. It lost 21-19 on a party line vote.

Of the three prefiled minimum wage bills, Democratic Senator Mamie Locke’s would reach $15 the earliest - by 2022.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.