Thanks to teacher, US Marines combat veteran and Democratic State Senate candidate Atif Qarni for the following issue statement on the importance of raising the minimum wage in Virginia. This is the first in a series of issue statements that you’ll be seeing here in coming weeks from Atif Qarni, on a wide variety of issues, demonstrating why he’s a great choice for Democrats in the 29th district (Manassas/Woodbridge), and also why I’m strongly supporting his candidacy!
Twenty-two years ago, I held my first job at Pizza Bolis. I made minimum wage, earning just $4.25 an hour. In the twenty-two years since, our minimum wage has only gone up by a rate of 14 cents per year. We have seen deliberate campaigns at the federal and state level to keep minimum wages low, and Virginians have paid the price.
I want to make this campaign about more than a Senate seat. This is a campaign to push Virginia to make the progress that should be expected of a state that boasts booming industries and political power. I teach GED students that struggle to make ends meet because the minimum wage is too low, and they haven’t been afforded the opportunities many of us have. I believe is time we immediately raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour, and implement a plan to raise it to $15 over the next 6 years. It is time to take strong action. There are three key reasons for this:
First, we owe every Virginian the chance to earn a living wage if they work full-time. No family should question whether or not 40 hours of work a week will put food on their table and a roof over their heads. Pushing wages up to $15 an hour over the next few years is the best solution, though an immediate increase to $10 will give workers the relief they need as Virginia approaches a living wage. According to the AFL-CIO, Virginia is one of top 10 states with the most minimum wage workers in the country. The American Progress Action Fund projects that 511,000 workers in the Commonwealth would directly feel the results of a minimum wage increase, and over 365,000 children would benefit from their parents’ wage increases. These folks would be able to make more money, have a higher spending power, and be able to spend more time raising their families under positive circumstances here in the Commonwealth.
Second, this is good for businesses. Companies like Costco and from businesses in Seattle who have taken it upon themselves as both private and public entities to raise their minimum wage with great success. Even companies like Wal-Mart acknowledge that wages need to be raised. With more money in their pockets, Virginians will have the money they need to be active participants in their local economy. As a member of Governor McAuliffe’s Small Business Commission, I have seen small businesses in the area and throughout the Commonwealth struggle because of economic hardship. When citizens flourish, so do the businesses around them. This minimum wage increase would lift the economic burden from businesses and increase income for families who would now have the ability to patronize local businesses to get the goods and services they need. This small fundamental change could provide a huge boost to local economies everywhere.
Finally, Virginia has an obligation to lead. We are a state full of patriots and good citizens concerned about the well being of our neighbors. I believe that the values we preach should echo in our actions. We need to exhibit that in our state lawmaking. Virginia has never been a place to wait and see what Washington has to say, nor should it be. We should act of own accord and make sure government is responsive to an evolving society and economy for both businesses and workers.
I hope for the opportunity to fight for the change we need in Richmond. For too long, our elected leaders have prioritized big business over local economies and hard working employees. In Richmond, I would be a leader in making government more effective and more responsive. For me, that means fighting to raise the minimum wage to a living wage.