“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. 

The bills outline two further increases, which go into effect only if the Assembly votes for them again: To $13.50 per hour in 2025 and then the often-touted $15 per hour in 2026 (by which time that will be considered inadequate.) From there the rate will automatically adjust upward annually for inflation, a consideration never offered to taxpayers when inflation raises their taxes.

Public Employee Unions. House Bill 582 and Senate Bill 939 permit cities, counties and towns to enter into collective bargaining agreements with their employees.  The first step in each local governing unit will be adoption of its own ordinance governing the process, with almost no limitations or guidance provided under the 2020 legislation.

The Thomas Jefferson Institute published a report on Alexandria’s proposed ordinance and local legal advice to seek to limit the scope of the coming agreements. You can read the draft ordinance here. Mainstream media so far is clueless and silent on all this, but an education is coming. This is going to be a major political issue over the next few months and years, with the labor organizers probably far more prepared behind the scenes than the local government officials are at this point.

An increase in the minimum wage is just about money.  This will be about politics, power, and accountability along with piles and piles of money.  It is a true sea change for Virginia.  The next step will be similar bargaining agreements with state employees, not yet legal.

Prevailing Wages. House Bill 833 and Senate Bill 8, which require payment of “prevailing wages” as defined by the federal Davis-Bacon Act, by contractors doing business with certain government bodies, unless the contracts are for less than $250,000. The Department of Labor and Industry will be responsible for setting and reviewing prevailing wage rates, in coordination with the federal authorities.

An employer found to have violated this faces a potential criminal penalty with jail time. This is a mandatory rule for state-related work. Local governing bodies have the option to impose this by ordinance, setting up another Herculean political struggle in various cities and counties.

Project Labor Agreements. House Bill 358 and Senate Bill 182 allow (but do not require) state and local bodies to require project labor agreements with organized labor when contracting for construction, manufacture, maintenance, or operation of public works projects. The legislation reversed a prohibition on writing this requirement into state bids.

Most of these changes would already be in effect but for the 2020 COVID recession. Nobody expects these changes to lower the cost of government services or government contracts, for either construction projects or services.  How much costs will go up, time will tell.

Whatever political clout organized labor now enjoys in the Commonwealth these will greatly add to it, especially in all local elections (with their lower turnout).  With that added influence, other elements of the labor agenda will become within reach. Congress may impose some of them on Virginia before the General Assembly meets again.

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


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24 responses to “May Day Brings Virginia’s Labor Revolution”

  1. And, so, Virginia joins the ranks of those states in which labor unions and the Democratic Party form a powerful symbiosis that feeds votes to Democrats and funnels money into the labor unions.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      As opposed to Republicans and Robber Barons? Tell me about Trump and Chase saving America and Virginia again, Daddy.

  2. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    Egads!! Cities, towns, and counties are given some authority to govern themselves as they see fit!! How will Virginia survive!!

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      I dunno. It’s certainly NOT the Virginia Way.

      Well, Republicans are fond of saying, “Ya can’t fix stupid,” but perhaps that’s because with Trump, Chase, and the 80% of Republicans who believe and support them, they clearly have found a fix for smart.

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      And the school teachers union shall sing Lara’s Theme.

  3. Great reporting, by the way. As usual, Virginians won’t find this information anywhere else… not even in Virginia Business magazine from what I have seen!

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Putting a reminder on the calendar and then re-writing a column from a year ago is hardly “reporting.” But true, the MSM is unaware or too slimmed down to cover. The public employee union issues will be a major story.

    2. John Martin Avatar
      John Martin

      and in every paper in the state when the laws were passed. This stuff about “conservative voices” (nothing “conservative ” about the GOP’s line of thinking, if you ask me..maybe I will explain someday) being suppressed is absurd

  4. DJRippert Avatar
    DJRippert

    Virginia is going to struggle for the foreseeable future. You can only enact these redistributive policies for so long before people leave. These’s no good reason for high wage earners to live in NoVa anymore. The cost of living is stratospheric and getting worse. The roads are a disaster. The taxes go up, up, up while the school systems go down, down, down.

    Keep an eye on what’s happening in Manhattan. Anybody who thinks that can’t happen in NoVa is fooling themselves.

    And the software developers of NoVa aren’t going to move to Richmond either …

    “Last year, longer distance relocations from New York City helped push New York the state to the biggest population decline of any in the US, putting it on track for its first population fall of any decade since the 1970s.”

    https://www.bbc.com/news/business-55535324

    1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Mr. DJ it seems to me that the folks who flee Virginia for the Sunbelt will ultimately flip states such as Texas, NC, and Florida blue. Sort of like all of that kudzu VDOT planted years ago to control erosion.
      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Kudzu_on_trees_in_Atlanta%2C_Georgia.jpg

      1. DJRippert Avatar
        DJRippert

        “When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.”

        ― Benjamin Franklin

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead

          “According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves”
          From Pluto and not to be confused with Bluto.
          http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/columns/totalrecall/bluto.jpg

        2. WayneS Avatar

          We appear to be somewhere between Apathy and Dependence on the Tytler Cycle (which should not be confused with the motorcycle dealership in Wisconsin). https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b1686d330177e9f10c1472115c52eb81c79749129b6a23fb353e02969833c9d5.png

          1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
            James Wyatt Whitehead

            May we find our way back to courage and liberty!

          2. WayneS Avatar

            Amen.

    2. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Well, the majority of other states operate under these rules. We’ll just fade into the mediocrity pack…..losing our status as an especially attractive location. The IT cluster is pretty well established, and the major Internet trunks in place. Amazon has been bought and tied down with grants. No way NNS can move those drydocks…

      1. DJRippert Avatar
        DJRippert

        Rightly or wrongly, I know a lot of people who think they’d be better off in Texas, North Carolina, Idaho, Arizona, etc. People certainly think they’d be better off somewhere other than New York City or State. The weather is better down south too. Gotta get out of NoVa. No future.

      2. John Martin Avatar
        John Martin

        “especially attractive location.” Attractive for businesses, consistently ranked at or near the bottom for workers

    3. John Martin Avatar
      John Martin

      “The taxes go up, up, up ” Really?

  5. LarrytheG Avatar
    LarrytheG

    Well, at least Haner didn’t entitle his post: “Warning warning Will Robinson, THOUSANDS of workers will LOSE THEIR JOBS” !

    😉

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Worst television show ever….Hey, but I wouldn’t say that. It isn’t about jobs being lost, but is very much about fewer jobs being created. Recently saw a story about a new signal machine Richmond is placing at school crossings to control traffic and, incidentally, to eliminate that low wage crossing guard job. Heartbreaking that there are people out there with so little to offer employers they aren’t worth $15 an hour, but there are….and now more will be unemployed.

      Biden letting in a few hundred thousand illegals won’t help raise those wages….

  6. TB1950 Avatar

    At their March 16 Legislative Committee meeting, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors discussed ordinances to require prevailing wage and project labor agreements on certain local projects:
    http://video.fairfaxcounty.gov/player/clip/2030?view_id=9&redirect=true

    They are the first local community in Virginia to do so.

    Bacon’s Rebellion covered the PLA and PW issues here back in 2020 as the bills moved through Richmond: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/non-union-construction-workers-need-not-apply/

    This 2020 Washington Post op-ed highlights how these policies will negatively impact Commonwealth taxpayers and its local construction industry and workforce: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/09/virginia-gov-ralph-northam-can-put-commonwealths-contractors-taxpayers-first/

  7. John Martin Avatar
    John Martin

    All good stuff. About damn time

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