Check out the rest of our series on how Virginia laws affect women here.
Twenty states raised their minimum wage in 2019, but Virginia was not one of them. The minimum wage in the Commonwealth still sits at $7.25 per hour, which is only slightly above the federal poverty line.
Democrats tried to raise the minimum wage last session and introduced four separate bills to do so, but Republicans defeated each one.
Had any of those bills passed, women would have been among the main beneficiaries. That’s because the majority of minimum wage earners are women. In 2017, 59% of the 70,000 workers earning the minimum wage or less in Virginia were women.
Not only would women have stood to benefit from such a minimum wage hike, but 91% of those women are 20-years-old or older. In other words, these are not teenagers working summer jobs. They are likely mothers and grandmothers caring for dependents.
A 2015 study from the Economic Policy Institute found that raising the federal minimum wage to even $12 an hour would provide one-in-four working moms and nearly 40% of single moms in the United States with a raise.
Virginia mothers would see particular benefits thanks to a higher minimum wage, as the state has one of the highest discrepancies between its minimum wage and the cost of living in the state. According to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a single mother with one child in Virginia would need to earn $27.83 per hour to cover all expenses. That’s roughly $20 more per hour over Virginia’s current minimum wage.
If you’re wondering how a single mother survives on that, you’re not alone. Advocacy groups like the Fight for 15 and 2020 Presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren have called for a higher minimum wage, noting how the minimum wage used to be enough to provide for a family, but isn’t anymore.
“When I was a kid, a minimum wage job in America would support a family of three. It would pay a mortgage, keep the utilities on, and put food on the table,” Warren frequently says.
“Today, a minimum wage job in America will not keep a momma and a baby out of poverty.”
This is true in all states, and arguably none more than Virginia.