Virginia Interfaith Center Expands Living Wage Certification Program Statewide | Richmond Free Press

In March 2018, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy launched its Living Wage Certification Program, recognizing 10 Richmond businesses and organizations that guaranteed to pay living wages to its employees.

The program has since expanded to Alexandria, Charlottesville and Harrisonburg, with the number of certified organizations reaching nearly 40.

Now, the VICPP has expanded its certification program statewide, the latest step in an effort to ensure better wages — and better lives — for workers in Virginia.

“We need to get the minimum wage right,” said Kim Bobo, executive director of VICPP. “It’s still not high enough for people.”

The VICPP hopes that by certifying businesses that pay living wages, it will both raise state wage standards and encourage people to patronize certified businesses.

The expansion of the program coincided with VICPP joining the National Living Wage Network and Living Wage for US to introduce International Living Wage Week in the United States. International Living Wage Week promoted the need for fair compensation for workers nationwide and the value of collective effort between employees, employers and worker groups.

“There are people who work eight hours, but they are unable to put food on their table,” said Evette Roots of the city’s Community Wealth Building Office during a virtual seminar held in the framework of the event.

“We have to be very intentional when we do this work. We have to make sure that we collaborate with partners in order to do this work,” she said.

A number of advancements in labor rights and benefits have been seen across Virginia in the years since living wage certification began. From a new law banning a form of wage theft to closing loopholes and standards that allowed companies to circumvent minimum wage requirements and gave workers little avenue to act, labor groups and advocates have made great progress in the state.

As Ms. Bobo noted, however, several critical issues remain unaddressed. A recent increase in the statewide minimum wage to $9.50, with increases expected to trickle down through the years under current law, falls short of what advocates have called for. Ms. Bobo thinks that there is not enough general support to positively influence public policies.

“We are not at the tipping point yet,” Ms Bobo said. ” We are progressing. We are certifying more companies, but not enough are certified yet.

A push by the VICPP and other advocates to establish paid sick leave for Virginia workers was also rejected by the General Assembly. Ms Bobo is unsure whether another push at the next General Assembly session in January is likely to succeed due to the change in administration and the change in political control of the House of Delegates.

Nonetheless, Ms. Bobo said the VICPP is gearing up for the next legislative session, with an agenda built around continuing and protecting the progress made so far.

Ms. Bobo invited people to participate in the VICPP lobby day on January 19.

“We’re happy to have people,” she said. “We would love to have some help.”

Michael A. Bynum