Bill to freeze Virginia’s minimum wage passes House of Delegates, awaits Senate

Illustration by Lily Higgins

Kaitlyn McMahon, Contributing Writer

A bill that would freeze Virginia’s minimum wage at $11 dollars per hour has passed through the Virginia House of Delegates and was recently assigned to a Senate Committee.

Beginning Jan. 1, Virginia increased its minimum wage from $9.50 per hour to $11 per hour. Virginia’s previous minimum wage, $7.25 per hour, stayed untouched for a decade before the $2.50 increase. General assembly members voted in May 2021 for the minimum wage to continue to increase until 2024. Legislatures could then decide to reenact this bill and have wages increase to $15, according to the Virginia Legislative Information website.

Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, recently introduced a bill that plans to repeal Virginia’s previously expected minimum wage increases. Continuing to increase the minimum wage is bad for businesses and workers, Freitas said during a Virginia House of Delegates session. 

“If we want to help people that are desperately trying to get that first job in order to move up the economic ladder, in order to get the experience that they need to be more economically successful, then I wouldn’t take away options they would otherwise choose for themselves,” Freitas said during the House reading of the bill on Jan. 31.

On the other hand, Del. Angelia Williams Graves, D-Norfolk, said keeping Virginia’s Wage Act is helpful for the less wealthy.

“A vote against increasing the minimum wage, is a vote against the most vulnerable population of this commonwealth,” Graves said.

Christian Martinez, a VCU alum and a current advocate with the organization CASA, spoke against the bill on Jan. 21 in the General Assembly.

“We are having conversations with all the legislators, Democrats and Republicans, to make sure our members are being heard,” Martinez stated in a text. “We held our advocacy day on January 26th, where our members spoke to the legislators about our priorities they voted on which included the minimum wage.”

CASA, which translates to “home” in Spanish, seeks to keep the current Virginia Minimum Wage Act, according to Martinez. CASA is an advocacy organization that supports the Latino community, immigrants and working class citizens, according to the organization’s website

“This is important to me and CASA because we see how hard Virginians have worked especially during the pandemic. Seeing Virginians make $1,760 a month before taxes is not a lot to support people’s families,” Martinez said. 

Eric Spivack, the owner of Alchemy Coffee in Richmond, was ahead of Virginia’s current minimum wage standards when he began paying his employees $15 per hour in February of 2021.

“I know my employees are worth that and should be getting paid that,” Spivack said.

He made this pay raise because he wanted workers to have a stable income while working in the irregular restaurant industry.

“Employees now have the benefit of having a predictable income regardless of tip volume,” Spivack said.

Spivack mentions that while people should receive fair wages for their work, this change shouldn’t happen too quickly. He believes there should be a gradual build up to $15 per hour wages.

“Does it make sense to jump from 11 to 15 overight? Probably not,” Spivack said. 

Junior Priscilla Hall believes a higher minimum wage would be helpful to Virginians, especially college students. 

“As a student, I mean, I need money for like food, groceries and rent, and so having a minimum wage that’s above 9-10 dollars would be really beneficial,” Hall said.

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