Living wage employer certification

Kim Crater speaks during a press conference held by the Charlottesville/Albemarle chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church on Monday.

The local chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is building a program to certify employers in the area who pay their workers approximately twice the federal minimum wage at the least.

Members of the Charlottesville-Albemarle chapter of the VICPP held a press conference Monday to announce the upcoming certification program and to advocate for raising the minimum wage.

Kim Crater, a member of the group, said they hope to roll out the program soon, but the chapter thought that Labor Day was a good time to announce it.

“It’s underway, and it’s Labor Day, so we wanted to lift it up,” Crater said of the certification program.

The current federal and Virginia minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, while 29 states and D.C. have higher minimum wages.

Walter Canter, pastor of Blue Ridge Presbyterian Church, said there are people who work full time in Charlottesville and Albemarle County who can’t afford to live here with basic necessities.

“We are here to bring attention to what we see as a moral problem and to offer ourselves as people of faith to work toward a sustainable solution,” he said. “We live in one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and we believe that in this country it is wrong that there are people who work full time while living in poverty.”

The certification program will publicly recognize employers who pay all of their workers at least $15 an hour, or at least $13.50 an hour if the employer also offers health insurance — what the group considers to be a “living wage.”

“We believe that the public recognition that we will give living wage employers, as well as the increase in productivity and decrease in employee turnover that living wage employers typically experience, will motivate employers who are not currently paying a living wage to begin doing so,” Crater said.

Certification programs already exist in Richmond and Alexandria, where they have a three-tiered system of gold, silver and “aspiring.”

According to a living wage calculator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that was updated in 2017, the living wage for one adult in Charlottesville or Albemarle is $12.02 per hour. The living wage for one adult with one dependent is $27.09 an hour.

Charlottesville’s budget for the current fiscal year includes approximately $115,000 to increase city employees’ living wage to $14.40. According to the budget document, it’s the first year of a two-year plan to raise the living wage to $15 per hour.

The budget also includes $1.4 million for a 3 percent raise for all city employees and $160,000 for further wage compression adjustments.

Albemarle’s current budget includes funding for a 2 percent pay increase for all county employees. According to salary scales and hiring ranges on the county website, the lowest a full-time employee could make this fiscal year is $10.10 an hour, not including the value of benefits.

The University of Virginia has a minimum wage of $12.38 per hour, but the value of benefits increases the overall pay to $16.68 per hour for full-time employees, according to UVa.

Contract employees with UVa can be paid as low as the federal minimum wage and are not eligible for benefits from the university.

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Allison Wrabel is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7261, or @craftypanda on Twitter.

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