Category Archives: Labor & workforce

Our Deranged Economic Policy

by James A. Bacon

Back during the Great Depression, critics of President Roosevelt’s economic policies equated them with paying unemployed workers to dig holes and fill them back up. As loony as that sounds, it’s better than what government does today. At least the idea of paying people to dig holes honored the age-old connection between work and reward. Now the government just hands out money willy nilly, no effort required.

I felt a full-scale rant coming on when I read this article in the Martinsville Bulletin his morning, which describes how businesses in Martinsville and Henry County in Southside Virginia cannot find find enough workers — this in a community which has long had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Will and Tammy Pearson, owners of two restaurants and a bowling alley, say they are so short-staffed that everyone who does have a job is working overtime. No one is responding to job advertisements. “With the unemployment and stimulus benefits,” says Will, “people don’t want to work.”

The Pearsons’ experience is common across the area. Continue reading

Some College Graduates Will Get Paid to Live in Southwest or Southside Virginia

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Tobacco Commission (Virginia Tobacco Region and Revitalization Commission) has come up with a program that does not involve pork-barrel grants.

Two of the problems afflicting the area served by the Commission, Southside and Southwest, are a shortage of people to fill certain jobs and a shortage of young adults putting down roots in the area. Its Talent Attraction Program is designed to address both problems. Under it, young graduates working in certain field can get up to $48,000 in student loans paid off.

The program is open to anyone graduating since 2019 with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Each participant must commit to living in the area for 24 months and working in one of the following areas:

  • Public School Teacher in Science, Math, Technology/Computer Science, or Career and Technical Education (Grades 6-12)
  • Public School Special Education Teacher (K-12)
  • Speech Language Pathologist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Industrial or Electrical Engineer
  • Information Security, Network, or Computer Systems Analyst

Continue reading

The Day-Late-and-a-Dollar-Short Administration

Image pulled from the VEC website.

by James A. Bacon

So much dysfunction…. at so many levels.

The federal government has been throwing trillions of dollars into COVID-19 relief. Many billions have flowed into Virginia. Despite this unprecedented peace-time spending, thousands of Virginians are being evicted from their homes, and thousands more are lining up at food pantries and soup kitchens. Why? Because government agencies can’t get the relief money to them in a timely fashion.

Look, I understand. Times of crisis require time to adapt, whether you’re a government agency or a private company. There’s no magic wand to wave to make massive economic dislocations painlessly disappear. But we can legitimately compare the performance of Virginia to other states. And by the basic criteria of handing out unemployment insurance payments to people who have lost their jobs, the Commonwealth appears to be doing a colossally poor job.

“Virginia continues to rank last in the country in key performance metrics tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor,” reports The Virginia Mercury. “The federal data shows the situation has only gotten worse as the pandemic continued, even as businesses have begun reopening and new claims have dropped.” Continue reading

Kings Dominion Stays a Step Ahead of the Minimum Wage

Bridgett Bywater, the new GM at Kings Dominion.

by James A. Bacon

Virginia’s $9.50-per-hour minimum wage will go into effect May 1, but it won’t have much impact on King’s Dominion, which expects to hire more than 2,000 seasonal workers, mostly young people, this season. The Hanover County amusement park plans to boost its minimum wage to $13 per hour, reports Virginia Business. The enterprise also is hiring 80 new full-time positions with wages and benefits starting at $16 an hour in culinary and operations roles.

Hopefully, the flap over the minimum wage in Virginia will prove to be much ado about nothing, as market forces in a fast-recovering economy push up wages faster than the General Assembly can jack up the minimum. In 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70,000 of Virginia’s 1,978,000 workers were paid the $7.50 minimum wage. Presumably, a significant number more were paid less than $9.50 and will benefit from the wage increase. That’s the up-side of the mandated wage boost.

What we don’t know is how many workers will lose their jobs as employers decide they don’t add enough value to the enterprise to justify the higher wage, or, in the longer run, invest in automation. Bacon’s Rebellion will stay alert for signs of how the minimum is impacting “marginalized” employees, such as minorities, teenagers, and rural workers. Continue reading

COPN Monopolies Depress Income for Virginia Healthcare Professionals Without Lowering Costs

The Business of Healthcare

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia is among the richest states in the country.  

We are ranked ninth among states with the highest median household income in the 2019 (latest) Census Bureau American Community Survey. Virginia median household income was $74,222 and the U.S. as a whole was $62,843.

But Virginia has a Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law among the most stifling of competition in the nation. The law itself and the regional monopolies created combine to suppress both opportunity and income for healthcare professionals.  

The monopolies don’t just control the healthcare delivery market, they also control the labor market.  

This essay will illustrate the effects of COPN and COPN-generated monopolies in depressing wages, and thus on the willingness of medical professionals to practice here. And then show you those lower wages don’t save consumers a dime. Continue reading

Selling Virginia Pot? Expect A Union Label

by Steve Haner

When Virginians begin to buy marijuana from state-licensed providers, if Governor Ralph Northam has his way, along with his smiling visage on every baggie of grass you may also find a union label.

I’m kidding about getting high with the governor’s image on the package but using the legalization bill to promote union political goals through a back door is no joke. Future state marijuana licensees may be in danger of losing their ability to sell pot if they fail to live up to various union-driven labor law requirements, set out below.  Continue reading

Democrats Expand Worker Protections

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Many commenters on this blog seem to view Virginia Democrats as elitists (the “Plantation Elite”) who either ignore or look down on the needs of most Virginians or elitists who are absorbed in advancing critical race theory and other woke ideas. While battles against these perceived threats have been raging on Bacon’s Rebellion, Democrats in the General Assembly have passed, over stiff Republican opposition, a raft of legislation during the past two sessions that benefit ordinary working stiffs.

Some of this legislation has been high profile and has drawn fire on these pages, but most have gone largely unnoticed here and in the press. The best-known bills are those that increase the minimum wage and that authorize localities to engage in collective bargaining with their employees. These have been debated extensively on BR and I have no interest in resuming those debates here. (For the record, I support the minimum wage increase, but have strong reservations about public employee collective bargaining.) Continue reading

May Day Brings Virginia’s Labor Revolution

“Liberty Leading the People,” Eugene Delacroix.

by Steve Haner

Four major changes in Virginia’s labor laws delayed at the beginning of the COVID-19 recession will all take effect May 1. All were approved by the 2020 General Assembly once Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and then delayed at the 2020 Veto Session. May Day 2021 is almost here.

Minimum Wage. The 31% increase in the state’s minimum wage, from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour, will have the broadest impact. House Bill 395 and Senate Bill 7 also raised the hourly minimum wage to $11 eight months later, on January 1, 2022, and to $12 a year later on January 1, 2023.  Continue reading

Virginia Will Mandate and Hold Retirement Savings

Click here for more information on the California state-run retirement fund that inspired the Virginia legislation. Source:  Georgetown Center for Retirement Incentives.

by Steve Haner

Next week’s reconvened General Assembly session will decide whether only full time employees of Virginia’s small businesses will be pushed into a new state-sponsored retirement savings plan, or part-time workers will join them there.  Continue reading

VEC Gets the Booby Prize

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

There has been considerable discussion on this blog as to which agency has been the biggest failure in the face of the pandemic. Many have placed the heaviest blame on the Department of Health. I would award the prize for the being the biggest failure to the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC).

The Department of Health certainly has had its problems and failures, but it has had to face a complex environment. For examples, it was dealing with a disease about which little was known at first, including its major method of transmission; the most vulnerable citizens were those in nursing homes, which are controlled by private owners; and it is dependent on other actors, such as hospitals and local health departments, for its data.

On the other hand, VEC has one primary mission—get out checks promptly to people who have lost their jobs. It largely failed at that job. Continue reading

Congress to Kill Right To Work, Since GA Didn’t?

U.S. Senator Mark Warner, savior of Virginia’s Right To Work Law?

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

One key goal for many of Virginia’s new progressive Democrats has been repeal of Virginia’s venerable Right To Work Law, and in 2020 they crossed one milestone by passing repeal in a key committee. But the Democratic leadership, perhaps wary of losing the bill in the Senate or angering too many moderate voters, ended the effort there and snuffed that bill. Continue reading

Podcast: How the General Assembly Has Changed

By Peter Galuszka

I haven’t contributed much to BR lately since I am slammed with non-Virginia work. I did manage to help out on a Podcast about how the General Assembly has changed the state over the last two years as Democrats have gained power.

This Podcast is produced by WTJU, the University of Virginia radio station. I do a weekly talk show on state politics and economics and, on occasion, work on Podcasts.

Joining me is Sally Hudson, a delegate from the Charlottesville area. She is Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics. Sally studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford and is one of the youngest members of the General Assembly.

I hope you enjoy it.

COVID and the Workforce


by James A. Bacon

Virginians with college degrees were far less likely to be laid off during the COVID-19 epidemic, and their occupations are in highest demand during the economic upturn, concludes an analysis written by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and distributed by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

“In order to ensure an inclusive, resilient, COVID economic recovery and continued growth across Virginia,” writes Pam Harder, managing director-strategic talent initiatives for VEDP, ” now more than ever we need to invest heavily in helping those without four-year-degrees find affordable and accessible pathways to good jobs.”

Harder makes the case that Virginia needs to “invest in education across the entire spectrum — industry certifications, state licensures, apprenticeships and certificates, as well as traditional degree programs.” Continue reading

Buy Bacon’s Book

By Peter Galuszka

This is a shameless advertisement. Jim has written an excellent book and you should buy it and review it.

While some of Jim’s focus is at odds with a similar book I wrote eight years ago, “Maverick Miner” is a really well put together effort at research and writing.

In my reporting, I asked many people, mostly miners, what they thought about E. Morgan Massey. The response: tough on unions but good guy. I heard this over and over. I was told that if rank and file miners had a serious problem, they could call Morgan and he’d come to the mountains to work things out. I heard this a lot and it gives credence to Jim’s book.

You should buy the book, read it, and like it or not, post something on Amazon. Here’s something I did:

“In this book, Jim Bacon, a Richmond journalist, tells a fascinating story about 94-year-old E. Morgan Massey, the former head of coal company that would become highly controversial. Massey paid Bacon to write a private narrative about the Massey family and agreed to let Bacon write his own unabridged account. Taken as a biography and while understanding that this is from Massey’s viewpoint, the result works very well. Massey explains why he hired Donald L. Blankenship, who achieved remarkable notoriety as the boss of Massey Energy, a company spinoff. He ended up in federal prison. The book underestimates the human and environmental cost of coal mining in the Central Appalachians. It also takes Massey’s side in dissecting what caused the April 5, 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners – the worst such U.S. coal disaster in 40 years. Even so, Bacon’s access to internal sources and records is a welcome contribution to understanding a great story.

Peter Galuszka is author of “Thunder on the Mountain: Death At Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal.” (St. Martin’s Press, 2012)

What Texas’s Crisis Means for Virginia

by Peter Galuszka

The Texas freeze and ensuing energy disaster has clear lessons for Virginia as it sorts out its energy future.

Yet much of the media coverage in Virginia and certainly on Bacon’s Rebellion conveniently leaves out pertinent observations.

The statewide freeze in Texas completely fouled up the entire energy infrastructure as natural gas pipelines and oil wells stopped working, coal at generating plants iced over and wind turbines stopped working.

Making matters much worse, Texas opted not to have power links with other states. Its “free market” system of purchasing power meant utilities skimped on maintenance and adding weather-relative preventive measures such as making sure key generation components were weatherproof.

The result? Scores dead and millions without electricity. Here are more points worth considering in Virginia:

Climate Change is For Real

It is a shame that so much comment in Bacon’s Rebellion is propaganda from people who are or were paid, either directly or indirectly, by the fossil fuel industry. Thus, the blog diminishes the importance of dealing with climate change in a progressive way.  Continue reading