RICHMOND—Today, Virginia House Democrats voted to guarantee a raise to minimum wage workers and establish access to collective bargaining for public employees, both of which advance Virginia’s working families. The votes happened during the reconvened session, which took place in a temporary outdoor location on Capitol Square. Social distancing measures were taken to ensure that health and safety concerns were addressed during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Our actions on the Governor’s recommendations today continue the historic progress of the 2020 regular General Assembly session,” said Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. “Last fall we promised voters progress and we have delivered on that promise.”
“In 2020, House Democrats sought to make Virginia the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” said House Majority Leader Charniele Herring. “We can return home from this reconvened session knowing we made significant gains for working families, which is even more important in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic”
House Democrats pushed this year to give the Commonwealth’s minimum wage workers a raise with HB 395, which helps working families and the most financially vulnerable Virginians. The House and Senate agreed to raise the minimum wage over the next three years to reach $12 in 2023, putting Virginia on track to a $15 minimum wage by 2026.
HB 582 gives local governments and their public employees — such as teachers and firefighters — the freedom to collectively bargain, in localities which choose to participate. The bill repeals a 2013 law that prevented state and local employees from unionizing.
“Raising the minimum wage is long overdue and will put money in the pockets of those who need it most — minimum wage workers who have been disproportionately hurt by this public health crisis. Enabling public employees like teachers and firefighters to access collective bargaining will finally give them the ability to better advocate for themselves in the workplace,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rip Sullivan. “We have fought tirelessly to achieve these goals, and they will finally be reached in 2021 after years of hard work.”
Today’s labor milestone during the reconvened session is one part of the many progressive victories achieved during the historic 2020 legislative session. Governor Ralph Northam has already signed many of the House Democrats’ accomplishments into law, which include crucial gun violence prevention measures, numerous expansions of voting rights, important environmental protections, much-needed repeal of restrictions on women’s ability to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions, essential civil rights safeguards for the LGBTQ+ community, and long-overdue repeal of racially discriminatory language from the Commonwealth’s Acts of Assembly.
The House under Democratic leadership passed 828 pieces of legislation, prior to the crossover legislation deadline, which was 37 percent more than the House of Delegates passed by the same time in 2019. In comparison to this year’s 828 bills, the House passed 603 bills in 2019, 591 bills in 2018, 586 bills in 2017, and 583 bills in 2016 — all while the Republican party held control of the chamber.
In 2019, a blue wave ushered in the first Democratic majority in the House of Delegates in more than 20 years. House Democrats elevated more women and people of color to leadership and committee chair positions than ever before in the legislative body’s 401-year history. Democrats heeded the call of the Virginians who put them into the majority by swiftly advancing legislation to improve the lives of all Virginians.