Virginia Religious Leaders Speak Out Against Regional Minimum Wage Approach

Feb 19, 2020

Religious leaders from across Virginia gather for a prayer vigil outside the Capitol. They’re calling for a $15 minimum wage across Virginia instead of the regional approach favored by the Senate.

Faith leaders from across Virginia are pressing Senate Democrats to abandon their regional approach to raising the minimum wage.

“We shall overcome some day...”

That’s the sound of a prayer vigil outside the Virginia Capitol. Faith leaders from across Virginia came to Capitol Square to press for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour everywhere in Virginia, not just in Northern Virginia. A bill that emerged out of the Senate takes a regional approach, which means low-wage workers in Hampton Roads won’t see $15 an hour until 2034 or even later.

“We oppose regionalism that widens income disparity and continues the cycle of systemic economical injustice,” says Anthony Fludd, a pastor at St. Johns Church of God in Christ at Newport News..

Senator Creigh Deeds is a Democrat from western Virginia, and he says a regional approach makes sense.

“I like $15 everywhere. But the reality is that Galax is different than Fairfax," Deeds explains. "It’s a different standard of living, and to me it’s worth taking a look at slowing the thing down a little bit at least in terms of figuring out what the market can bear in different parts of the state.”

Now lawmakers are at an impasse. The House bill creates a $15 minimum wage across the state by 2025, but the Senate version has this regional variation based on median household income. That means the two sides are going to have to come together in a closed-door conference committee and hash it out in secret.

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