These hospitals are giving their employees relief from Virginia's dismal minimum wage

By Sean Galvin

January 2, 2020

The lowest-paid employees will eventually make more than twice Virginia’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage.

Sentara Healthcare and Bon Secours Mercy Health, two large health systems in Virginia, both announced they will be increasing their lowest-paid employees’ wages to $15 an hour. That is more than double the minimum wage in the Commonwealth, which has one of the lowest minimum wage requirements in the United States.

The initiative will affect about 800 Bon Secours employees and 5,700 Sentara employees. It won’t start until 2022, but both hospital systems’ employees are set to see wage improvements this year. Sentara’s lowest-paid employees’ wages will see an increase from $12.75 to $13.50 on Sunday, Bon Secours said its employees also would get a see a pay increase this year but didn’t offer specifics.

The announcement comes as minimum wage laws have gotten increased attention across the country. Fight for $15, a labor advocacy group, has helped organize strikes and demonstrations across the country. The effort is paying off. Twenty other states raised their minimum wages last year, with most of them taking effect just yesterday. Seventeen of those states and municipalities will be raising their lowest pay to at least $15 an hour.

Virginia, however, has lagged behind other states. Virginia’s minimum wage currently sits at $7.25 an hour, the minimum required by the federal government. The newly-elected Democratic majority in Virginia has vowed to tackle the issue in this year’s General Assembly session. In 2019, Sen. Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg) proposed SB1200, which would have raised the minimum wage to $10 per hour last year, $13 an hour in 2020, and then $15 per hour in 2021. Ultimately the bill died along party lines, with all 21 Republicans voting against and all 19 Democrats voting in support.

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