In the 2007, the Fair Minimum Wage Act enacted a series of increases for the federal minimum wage to be accomplished over a three year period. Each increase would be 70 cents and would occur on July 24. The first increase took place in 2007, the second in 2008, and the third and last increase in 2009.
That last increase went into effect on July 24, 2009 and increased the federal minimum from $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour. This increase affected most of the employers in Virginia, including those covered by the state minimum wage.
Many Virginia employers are covered by the federal minimum wage.
The federal minimum wage is governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act of (more…)
We have been talking lately about the Maryland living wage bill, a first of its kind implementation of a state wide living wage that came right on the heels of a change to the Maryland minimum wage. Then we covered, if my memory is not failing me, about how the state of Virginia’s legislature has not passed a new minimum wage. It was sort of a comparison just for the sake of comparison, as Virginia and Maryland are neighbors, and we considered if the minimum wage divide and the new Maryland living wage would make it harder for some Virginia employers—especially in the Washington DC area—to find employees.
But what I failed to cover back then—and I am terribly sorry, please forgive me!—is the fact that the living wage has been making headway in the state of Virginia on the local level, and that the state of Virginia has a grass roots effort still in effect trying for next year’s legislative session to pass a new Virginia minimum wage. Leading the charge or at least helping the charge on all these fronts is a grass roots organization called the Virginia Organizing Project.
As I said, one of its goals is to get a new Virginia minimum wage bill moved through the state legislature in the near future, which would raise the Virginia minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $6.50 per hour. Behind this movement is also a larger group of organizations called the Virginia Alliance for Worker Justice, which brings together religious, labor, and community groups for this one cause. It did not happen this time, but there is always the next session.
But the Virginia Organizing Project has also helped to get living wages passed in such locales as Albemarle County and as well in the city of Charlottesville, the organization’s home and the home of the University of Virginia, by the way.
But how the Dillon Rule interpretation and the old Virginia minimum wage law could affect some employers is because of the fact that Maryland is right next door to Virginia, at least near the Washington DC area. And in that regard, Maryland now has a living wage law for contractors dealing with the state government in public projects. And Maryland also has a new Maryland minimum wage law that we have talked about as well recently.
So, you ask? Well, the “so” is the fact that some opponents of the General Assembly’s position, and some opponents of the Attorney General’s position, suggest that because Virginia’s minimum wage is only $5.15 per hour—and that Maryland’s minimum wage is $5.15 per hour and its living wage in the Washington DC are is $11.30 per hour—the state of Maryland will then attract the most qualified and best workers in the area.
It is an interesting view, and kind of brings together all of the pros and cons of the living wage and the minimum wage that we have seen in the last few months, while state politicians and federal politicians have been arguing over whether higher minimum wages are better for the economy and for employers overall, or whether they hurt the economy in the long run and hurt an employer’s competitive chances.
We shall see in Virginia. Of course, things might change soon there anyway, because the passage of the federal minimum wage bill—if and when it happens—could at least even up the minimum wage in Virginia in 2008 for most employers with the Maryland minimum wage, thereby ending that price differential. By the midyear of 2008, according to the federal minimum wage bill, many employers in both states would be paying a federal minimum wage of $6.50, since that rate would be higher than both local minimum wages.
Perhaps there would be more to report from Virginia on its minimum wage, if Virginia had been another state, with another legislature. But in the unique tradition of American politics, the ways politics go is a local issue, and no issue is perhaps more local than the minimum wage. So when the Virginia General Assembly this year considered a new Virginia minimum wage—a change from its current level of $5.15 per hour to $6.50 per hour—the General Assembly ultimately decided that the change to the Virginia minimum wage was not for their state and they rejected it.
The Attorney General of the state, Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell has also announced his view that any living wages all also not appropriate for any city, town, or community in the state of Virginia. McDonnell takes that view from his reading of the so called Dillon Rule. The Dillon Rule has been around for nearly 140 years, and it actually is an old rule that once was used in many states across the Union.
What it basically says is that the state rule trumps any local authority to determine certain issues. In other words, in at least McDonnell’s view, the Dillon Rule allows the state of Virginia to tell local governments and even state colleges and universities that they cannot pass any sort of living wage laws in their areas. Yet there are state laws currently in Virginia that allow local governments and colleges to decide how to set up their own bidding and licensing processes when they deal with contractors on public processes and projects.
How will Dillon Rule and no new Virginia minimum wage affect you employers out there in the field? For starters, in 2007 you did not need to buy yourselves new Virginia minimum wage labor law posters.
Some other news that I’m hearing from my sources is coming out of Virginia. If you remember there, Democrats were trying to get the House of Delegates in the state to consider their minimum wage increase proposal before the term of this session of the House of Delegates runs out. Well, looks like it won’t work out for that piece of legislation. According to my sources, it was dead on arrival today, the day after the Presidents’ birthday holiday.
Here’s how it supposedly went down in the House of Delegates: By a vote of 53 to 43, which supposedly was divided pretty clearly down the divide between Republicans and Democrats, the House of Delegates voted to send the bill back to the Appropriations Committee. To the average employer who doesn’t know the intricacies of the Virginian House of Delegates, that might seem like the bill still has some legs.
But the deal here—and why the bill is dead for this session—is that yesterday was the deadline for any action to be completed by the Appropriations Committee. So basically, the House sent the minimum wage bill to the committee knowing that it was too late for the committee to act on the minimum wage increase.
The opponents of the bill argued that there was a reason besides this to send the bill to the Appropriations Committee, and that was because the bill would have cost the state about $5 million when the new minimum wage was enacted. Fans of the bill argued that any money needed for the minimum wage increase could have come from some contingency fund and that the committee wasn’t needed to OK it.
The Virginia minimum wage bill would have raised the minimum wage in the state to $6.50 per hour this coming July 1.