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

The Richmond program has launched.  Alexandria should launch soon. Charlottesville is in the planning phase.  A new planning group has formed in Harrisonburg.

The Richmond Living Wage Certification Program is a joint initiative of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and the Richmond Office of Community Wealth Building. This voluntary process is designed to:

  • Recognize employers who are already paying their workers a living wage.
  • Assist consumers in patronizing businesses that provide living wages.
  • Encourage employers who are not currently paying a living wage to adopt the Campaign’s thresholds.
  • Challenge employers who could raise wages and choose not to do so, by publicizing and promoting an ethical alternative to discourage practices that drive down wages and standards.

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.

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. Richmond’s Certification Committee reviewed calculations using all methods to arrive at its standards, which are:

     Gold Star Standard $16.00 per hour (or $14.50 plus healthcare)

     Silver Star Standard $12.50 per hour (or $11.00 plus healthcare)

     Aspiring Living Wage $11.00 per hour (or $9.50 plus healthcare)

The Gold Star is what Certification Committee believes it really takes to raise someone out of poverty in Virginia. The Silver Star is good, but not as strong as gold. The Aspiring category is for those employers who want to pay a living wage, but can’t do it immediately and pledge to work toward it 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 the 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:

Ron Alpern  – Ron@virginiainterfaithcenter.org

Alexandria:

Stephanie Niedringhaus – sniedringhaus@gmail.com

Charlottesville:

Kim Crater  – kimcrater@ths85.net

Harrisonburg:

Brent Finnegan  – brentfinnegan@gmail.com