The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is spearheading the creation of multiple Living Wage Certification programs across the Commonwealth.

The Living Wage Certification Program recognizes that the current Virginia minimum wage ($7.25) is woefully inadequate.  Paying a living wage, which enable local employees to put food on the table and a roof over their heads, is a moral imperative.

Because Virginia’s local communities are not currently allowed to raise their local minimum wage laws, VICPP’s private certification programs recognize local employers who pay all employees a “living wage.” A living wage is defined as the minimum wage a worker must earn to pay for basic necessities, including food and housing, without assistance from others.

The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is partnering with communities across the Commonwealth to launch and support Living Wage Certification Programs.

This voluntary process is designed to:

  • Recognize employers who are already paying their workers a living wage
  • Urge consumers to patronize area businesses that provide living wages
  • Encourage employers who are not currently paying a living wage to adopt the program’s standards

The Richmond and Alexandria living wage programs have launched. Charlottesville is in the planning phase and a new planning group has formed in Harrisonburg.

Minimum Wage versus Living Wage

Most employers in Virginia are required under federal law to pay workers the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Virginia’s state minimum wage is the same as the federal level, but there are many businesses exempt from the state minimum wage because of their size (under four employees) or the worker categories (like farmworker or domestic worker). Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have raised their state minimum wage higher than the federal standard. Virginia has not. In addition, 39 local communities have raised their local minimum wages higher than their states’ wages. Virginia is a Dillon-rule state that requires permission to enact such local laws.

Workers have little chance of getting themselves out of poverty if their wages are only $7.25 per hour.

Calculating a Living Wage

There are many ways to calculate a living wage, but they are all based on calculating what it really costs to live decently – to rent an apartment, buy food, get transportation and have healthcare.  The three most common methods for calculating a living wage use the MIT Basic Human Needs Calculator, the Universal Living Wage Formula, and the Economic Policy Institute Family Budget Calculator.

There are three levels of certification.  The Gold level is what the Certification Committee believes it really takes to raise someone out of poverty in Virginia. The Silver level represents a strong effort towards paying a living wage. The Aspiring level is for those employers who want to pay a living wage, but cannot do it immediately and pledge to work towards the higher levels in the next two years.

Benefits of Certification

  • “Living Wage Certificate” for display at your place of business
  • Listing on the Living Wage Certification website with a link to your business
  • Recognition through a launch event, periodic press releases, and other high profile public events designed to promote living wages
  • Regular listings and recognition at other events hosted by the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
  • Occasional advertisements in local media outlets once the program reaches key milestones (such as the first 100 employers)
  • Free promotion of your businesses through area congregations affiliated with Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
  • Being part of a growing network of local employers dedicated to building a more sustainable economy
  • Demonstrating to your employees that you are committed to paying living wages

 

To learn more, contact:

Richmond Program:
Ron Alpern – Ron@virginiainterfaithcenter.org

Alexandria Program:
Stephanie Niedringhaus – sniedringhaus@gmail.com

Charlottesville Program:
Kim Crater  – kimcrater@ths85.net

Harrisonburg Program:
Brent Finnegan  – brentfinnegan@gmail.com