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Votes

Living Wage Under Assault

Local delegation watching Richmond action closely.

Alexandria’s local officials and the city’s state legislative delegation are closely monitoring a bill that would revoke the living wage ordinance and preclude other jurisdictions from passing such laws.

The bill was introduced by Republican Senator Jay O’Brien, who represents pieces of Fairfax and Prince William counties. “It’s not a surprise because O’Brien has introduced this legislation in the past,” said John Liss, the executive director of the Tenant and Workers Support Committee, the group that was instrumental in getting Alexandria’s living wage ordinance passed.

“However, I do find it a bit hypocritical that a Republican is interfering in home rule and opposing best value procurement. I think that we need to let his neighbors know what he is trying to do to Arlington, Alexandria and Charlottesville, jurisdictions that he doesn’t even represent.”

O’Brien’s legislation would repeal the three existing living wage ordinances because they are in violation of the Dillon Rule. Unless the General Assembly allows such local laws to be passed, they would be prohibited.

“O’Brien says that he is for family values and then introduces this legislation,” said Alexandria Councilman Ludwig Gaines. “We have heard testimony from people who are now earning a living wage that they have been able to give up one of three jobs and spend more time at home with their children because of their increased salary.

“Also, the living wage has helped certain businesses to recruit and retain more qualified employees than they could have employed previously. I went to Richmond last week to support our living wage ordinance and we encourage everyone to do what they can to support it,” Gaines said.

State Senator Patricia S. “Patsy” Ticer (D-30) attended the same press conference last week in Richmond. “We do not believe that the city is in violation of the Dillon Rule,” she said. “Under the Virginia Public Procurement Act, we are allowed to pass local ordinances encouraging best value procurement. That’s what the living wage ordinance has done.

“Unfortunately, the bill has been sent to the Rules Committee, which is more favorable to Sen. O’Brien than some others might have been. We are very concerned and are going to watch what happens very closely and work to see that this bill is defeated,” Ticer said.