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VA religious leaders urge Youngkin to sign minimum wage increase bill

VA religious leaders urge Youngkin to sign minimum wage increase bill

A minimum wage employee working in a fast food kitchen. (Photo via Shutterstock)

By Isabel Soisson

March 22, 2024

More than four hundred Virginia bishops, religious leaders, and clergy recently signed a letter urging Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin to sign legislation that would raise Virginia’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026. 

Both Senate Bill (SB) 1 and House Bill (HB) 1 were introduced by Democrats and passed on party-line votes in the House of Delegates (51-49) and Virginia Senate (21-19) respectively, without any Republican support. Both bills passed out of the other chamber within the last few weeks. 

The legislation would raise Virginia’s minimum wage from the current rate of $12 per hour to $13.50 in 2025 and to $15 in 2026. This continues the efforts Democrats began after they won full majority control of the legislature in 2019, when they began gradually raising the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to the current $12 rate.

Gov. Youngkin has until April 8 to either sign, veto, or recommend amendments to the legislation before lawmakers reconvene on April 17 to consider the governor’s initial amendments and vetoes. 

“We know Gov. Youngkin is a person of faith and that he understands too many working families are struggling,” Kim Bobo, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy said in a statement. “The Virginia Interfaith Center urges him to allow this bill to become law.” 

The minimum wage bill would increase wages for 611,000 workers in Virginia, most of whom work at least 35 hours a week. According to The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, most of the workers who will benefit are people of color, and 6 out of every 10 are women. Plus, 9 out of every 10 workers who will benefit from the bill are over the age of 20, contradicting the idea that minors are the primary people working minimum wage jobs. 

“Faith communities support modest increases to the minimum wage as an effective means to reduce hunger and poverty,” Bobo added. “Caring for our neighbors is a core religious value.” 

State Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), who introduced SB 1, has warned Youngkin that he’d see a change in the Democrats’ “cooperative tone” if he vetoes the minimum wage bill. 

A poll released in January by the Wason Center based out of Christopher Newport University found that 68% of Virginians support increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Polls released last year from Virginia Commonwealth University also found that Virginians rank the rising cost of living as the most important issue facing state residents—something higher wages could help address.

According to a study conducted in 2023 by the Virginia Department of Housing and Economic Development, about half a million Virginians made $12 or less per hour as of 2021, with one million workers earning $15 or less.

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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