Victoria McKoy: Small businesses can’t thrive if workers can’t live

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While national economists like to reference the “lipstick index,” I like to use a real-world measure that tells me how my community is doing. Let’s call it the “beauty salon chair index.”

The theory of the lipstick index is that in hard times women buy more lipstick because it’s the one splurge they can afford. My beauty salon chair index shows the opposite—that women get more haircuts and treatments when times are good and they have a little extra money in their pocket.

I am the owner of Glamystique Hair Salon in Norfolk. I’ve been here 15 years and hope to see another—even better—15. I’m a Norfolk native with grandchildren here and want them to grow up with a strong economy and community around them. Many of my clients know me from church or from the neighborhood.

My business isn’t just a bottom-line operation, it’s my community. And like my business, my community could use the economic boost that would come from raising the minimum wage statewide to $15 an hour.

That’s why I support the General Assembly passing legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 statewide — and am strongly against the Senate’s attempt to create a regional system of minimum wages across Virginia.

The Senate’s regional approach would give lower minimum wages to areas that have lower median household incomes like the Hampton Roads and Roanoke areas, for example. Hampton Roads, including Norfolk, would get half the minimum wage increase as Northern Virginia, according to The Commonwealth Institute. What an insult – people aren’t putting in half the work.

Norfolk’s minimum wage might not get to $15 until 2034 under a regional approach – and some areas of Virginia would take even longer. That would be devastating to my business and other businesses that depend on consumer spending to survive.

I get the bulk of my bookings around major events and windfalls—weddings, proms, graduations, job interviews, church events. Those are the hard-earned special treatments, the ones that often require months of saving and compromises on food or utilities. On the flip side are the windfalls. The most exciting time of year is tax refund time, when people come and get their hair done because they received their refunds.

A decade with a $7.25 minimum wage has been long and hard on everyone, workers and businesses alike. A working person can’t make it on $7.25 an hour – whether they’re in Richmond or Roanoke or Norfolk. And we certainly can’t wait till the year 2034 or later for people to be earning $15.

If working folks can’t afford necessities on minimum wage, they sure can’t afford to spend a little extra getting their hair done. Or getting their cars repaired or buying a bike for their kids or going out to dinner or spending money on the many other goods and services local businesses provide.

I learn a lot about people when they are sitting in my chair: how their children are doing, new love interests and, of course, their struggles. Raising the minimum wage has been a huge hope and source of excitement. In addition to being able to get their hair done more often, my clients feel it would boost their economic standing across the board. They talk about having less fear about making rent or affording medicine. They talk about healthier eating and a night out.

So, Virginia legislators, as you consider the minimum wage bills, think not only of blue-collar workers, but of pink-collar workers, and pink-collar businesses. Think of Main Street. Think about my business, and my clients and neighbors.

We need a $15 minimum wage across Virginia and we need it by 2025, not a decade later. We simply can’t wait that long.

Victoria McKoy is the owner of Glamystique Hair Salon in Norfolk and a member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage. Credit to Virginia Forum for sharing this op-ed piece.



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