Oxfam America’s Labor Day 2019 Report: Virginia Ranked as Worst State to Work
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - On Labor Day, Virginia checked in as the worst state for laborers in a new ranking by anti-poverty nonprofit - Oxfam America. In this ranking, Virginia comes in dead last due in part to the disparity between the cost of living and minimum wage.
The city of Charlottesville is working to combat that gap.
“Virginia is one of the most expensive states in the country but yet we don’t pay people nearly what we should,” said Charlottesville City Councilor Wes Bellamy.
A new ranking by Oxfam America declares Virginia the worst state in the country for workers. It says the commonwealth has poor worker protection laws and rights to unionize, on top of the largest gap between its minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, and the minimum cost of $27.83 per hour to raise a family of four.
“If you work somewhere its logical for you to want to be able to live in that same community as well,” said Bellamy.
Virginia's neighbor to the north-east, Washington, D.C., ranks number one on the list with a minimum wage of $14 and a living wage necessary to support a family of four of $31.75.
In January, the Virginia General Assembly defeated a Senate bill which would have gradually raised the minimum wage over the next three years until it reached $15 in 2021. Virginia localities are not able to do that on their own.
“We as a city under the Dillon rule, we don't have the authority to mandate a living wage across the city for all employers, but we wish we could,” said Bellamy.
Charlottesville city councilors have taken steps to bump up the pay for the lowest-paid full-time city employees. As of July 1, they now make $15 per hour.
“It’s something that we're hoping the rest of the community and other employers can follow our lead, but we know sometimes that can be difficult. We have to set the standard and continue to push,” said Bellamy.
The University of Virginia is also working to close the living wage gap for employees. In March, the board of visitors voted to raise the minimum wage for full-time and benefit-eligible employees to $15 per hour starting January 1, 2020.