Raise the Wage West Virginia, a newly formed coalition, is applauding yesterday’s 89-5 vote in the West Virginia House of Delegates to raise the state’s minimum wage. The group includes members of the faith-based community, labor unions, community organizations and state workers who would benefit from a raise in the wage.
“Every worker deserves fair wages and a chance at the American Dream. Today we are one step closer to an economy that works for all West Virginians,” said Ted Boettner, Executive Director of West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.
The minimum wage has not been increased since 2009. Had the minimum wage kept pace with inflation, it would be $10.10. Supporters of the increase cite research showing such increases put more money into the hands of consumers, boosting spending and the state economy.
Coalition members spoke to the reality working families face and the economic gains to be made with an increased wage. “WVEA members and school employees understand firsthand the negative impact of poverty on a child’s ability to learn and succeed. WVEA is deeply concerned that too many of West Virginia’s working families simply cannot afford to provide the most basic necessities for their children,” stated Dale Lee, President of the West Virginia Education Association.
Rachel Huff of WV-FREE highlighted how “raising the wage is important for the well-being and economic security of women.” As 60% of minimum wage earners are women, the increase is poised to have a strong impact on women workers and their dependent children.
It is in such workers’ stories that the argument for an increased minimum wage is brought to light. As Nicole, a worker at a national retailer, stated: “We want a chance to make our own way. My husband and I are working hard for our son’s future. But little things really add up: medical co-pays, gas, and wear and tear on vehicles. These little things add up.”
Nicole’s story is all too common in West Virginia where the state’s economy has become dominated by low-wage jobs.
“Roughly 120,000 workers stand to benefit from the proposed increase. On top of that, research tells us that businesses paying the minimum wage are NOT adversely affected, contrary to popular belief. That’s why we believe raising the minimum wage is a no-brainer; and that’s why we have made this issue one of our top priorities,” said Josh Sword, Secretary-Treasurer of the WV AFL-CIO.