Collective bargaining. Right to organize. Paid family medical leave.
In 2019, Virginia was rated worst in the nation for workers’ rights, ranking 51st out of 51 based on the State’s lack of worker protection policies, union suppression policies, and incredibly low minimum wage – which will rise from $7.25/hour to $9.50/hour effective May 1, 2021, except for tipped workers who still make an appallingly low $2.13/hr. While the increase in minimum wage is welcome, it’s not nearly enough. In VA-11, the average cost of a one-bedroom garden apartment ranges from $1500-$1800 per month. That means a person working 8 hrs/day at one job (definition of a ‘living wage’) would earn $1520/mo before taxes. Yet, multiple sources suggest a person should spend no more than 30%-40% on housing, with financial sites encouraging staying with the ‘30% rule.’ Clearly that can’t happen, at least not in Northern Virginia, on $9.50/hr. Passing legislation like the HR7 Paycheck Fairness Act provides a baseline of what needs to be done, we must do more than level the playing field at a poverty wage. To make a real difference, we must empower workers and that means allowing for collective bargaining. While there are arguments on both sides of the union debate, a study conducted by CNU’s Watson Center found that “68% of registered voters in Virginia support or strongly support allowing public employees to join a union and negotiate a contract.” To help workers in Virginia and across the nation, we must:
- Ensure that all workers have the right to collective bargaining
- Promote sectoral bargaining alongside worksite-level bargaining
- Ensure that unions are implemented in a fair and equitable manner
- Enact stronger legislation to support workers’ rights by passing the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, enable collective bargaining through digital unionization, and establish a federal Paid Family Medical Leave Act