Virginia AFL-CIO Statement On NEW Labor Legislation Effective May 1

Virginia AFL-CIO Celebrates Labor Law Enactment in Virginia On May Day

Richmond, VA – On May 1, International Workers’ Day, lovingly referred to as May Day, rallies, protests, and demonstrations are typically held across the globe in celebration of working people and their continued fight for rights in the workplace. In Virginia, on this May Day, our celebration will focus on the fights we have recently won. May Day 2021 is a celebration for the long-awaited new laws to empower workers that will go into effect today.

The first law taking effect today is the minimum wage increase. The current federal minimum wage since 2009 has been $7.25, but with the new law, Virginia’s wage has increased to the new rate of $9.50 an hour, with an increase to $11 an hour on January 1, 2022, and in 2023, an increase to $12. This law does include a re-enactment provision that requires the General Assembly to vote for them again to $13.25 an hour in 2025 and then to $15 an hour in 2026. This increase in minimum wage will benefit all working Virginians and aid in closing the wage gap for women, minorities, and senior citizens.

The second law effective today is the Prevailing Wage Act that requires contractors for all state public works projects, including transportation projects, to pay workers a prevailing wage rate in accordance with the federal Davis-Bacon Act, unless the contracts are less than $250,000. This new law also enables local governments to adopt prevailing wage ordinances, and it gives DOLI the responsibility of setting and reviewing prevailing wage rates in coordination with the federal government. The third law is the Project labor Agreements Act which reversed a prohibition on writing this requirement into state bids, allows state and local bodies to require project labor agreements (PLAs) with organized labor when contracting for construction, manufacture, maintenance, or operation of public works projects. Both of these laws will ensure that public works projects promote positive workforce development by providing good-paying jobs for local residents that can benefit local contractors and ensure that Virginia’s construction projects are done on-time and on-budget with maximum community benefits.

The fourth law to take effect is the legislation lifting the ban on collective bargaining for employees has been enacted. In Virginia, finally, workers are able to come to the table to negotiate not just their salaries, but also their working conditions. Things that directly benefit communities at large – staffing levels/ratios and caseloads, class sizes, adequate training, up-to-date emergency response equipment, and more – can all be negotiated in a contract. Workers can advocate for the things they need to better serve our communities; making Virginia a better, safer, and stronger place to live and work.

It was only 1 year ago that Virginia remained as one of only three states in the nation with a blanket ban on collective bargaining for all public sector workers; thankfully, the General Assembly passed a bill that lifted the ban as it applies to localities and school boards, which was an important step in the right direction to securing working Virginians’ rights and freedoms within the workplace.

Throughout this pandemic, our public service workers have taken extreme measures with the most extraordinary courage, often risking their own health, to deliver the essential services that make our communities run. Our teachers have adapted their classrooms to virtual, often while caring for their own children and families at home. Our firefighters and emergency response personnel have been transporting COVID-19 patients and have contracted the disease. And for months after their schools closed, our custodians were still showing up to disinfect buildings and deliver lunches to students in need. And finally, the support they have needed most during these tough times, is finally here, and localities must do all they can to demonstrate their support and care to them, and that is collectively bargaining.

Virginia AFL-CIO is glad to have worked with many organizations and legislators to advance the rights of workers both on and off the job. By listening to the needs of the hundreds of thousands of Virginian union members and their working families we represent, we will continue to keep fighting until no worker is left behind.