Democrats Want to Raise the Minimum Wage, But Are Split Over the Details

Feb 12, 2020

Democrats are united in their desire to raise the minimum wage. But, they’re divided on how to make it happen.

House Democrats passed a bill that increases the minimum wage to $15 an hour across Virginia by 2025. But Senate Democrats are taking a different approach, one that’s upsetting many people who helped Democrats take the majority this year. The idea is that increases to the minimum wage would take a regional approach based on median household income. So that would mean Northern Virginia would get to $15 an hour pretty quickly but not necessarily in the rest of the state.

David Broder is a service industry union leader, and he worries communities in Hampton Roads will be stuck without a living wage. 

“It won’t get to $15 for 10, 12 years or longer", Broder explains. "And that is where large concentrations of black and brown workers live, and single moms. And so this bill that aims to help alleviate economic inequality is actually going to bake it in even more strongly to our system.”

The regional approach was crafted in the Senate as a last-minute compromise to save the effort to raise the minimum wage.

Senator Scott Surovell wrote the amendment to the bill, and he acknowledges that the regional approach is a bit of legislative sausage making.  

“There’s some members of my caucus that didn’t feel comfortable going $15 across the entire Commonwealth," he says. "And we had to structure a bill that would get 21 votes and that’s what we did.”

Now, ultimately House and Senate leaders will go behind closed doors in a secret conference committee meeting to see if they can hammer out a deal.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.