Virginia House Democrats stand for workers’ rights

virginia house democratsVirginia House Democrats discussed several pieces of legislation to improve the lives and livelihoods of Virginia’s workers at a press conference on Wednesday.

Delegate Paul Krizek led off the press conference by saying, “We’re here today to talk about one of the core issues that defines us as Democrats – our commitment to jobs and the people who need those jobs, who man those jobs – good jobs with fair pay for an honest day’s work, no matter who the workers are or where they’re from.

Delegate Krizek then spoke to his bill that requires state contractors to pay a prevailing wage on public contracts. “A prevailing wage promotes “high-road,” best value, local economic development. It discourages construction companies from driving down wages and cheapening the quality of construction,” he said.

Delegate Hala Ayala spoke on Delegate Krizek’s bill that would repeal the prohibition on state agencies from entering into Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) with multiple organizations working on the same project. Delegate Ayala stressed that “Project Labor Agreements are good for business and good for workers. PLAs create career paths for women, minorities, veterans, and other underrepresented populations.”

Delegate Jeion Ward spoke on legislation sponsored by Delegate Krizek that would repeal a Jim Crow wage provision still on the books that exempts service jobs historically held by people of color from minimum wage laws.

“When you think about those classifications – newsboys, shoe-shine boys, farm laborers – what type of person do you imagine? The law is clearly written to economically harm people of color,” she said.

Paraphrasing a 1968 quote delivered by Martin Luther King Jr, Delegate Wardcontinued: “Now our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality. What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter, when he can’t afford to buy a hamburger?”

Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, a union member, spoke on her bill that would prohibit an insurer from conducting a review of the employer’s premises without an employee of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, unless the employer consents.

“Not only will this help ask the right questions, but it will help us enforce the right codes,” said Delegate Guzman. “This will help the employers and the insurance agencies, but most importantly this bill will help hardworking Virginians” “

Delegate Sam Rasoul spoke on his bill that would eliminate any requirement of the disclosure of wage history when applying for a job. The bill will help Virginians earn fairer wages and not be disadvantaged by part-time employment, multiple minimum wage jobs, or time out of the workforce while attending to family needs.

“This is something that specifically harms women who are often the breadwinners and caregivers,” said Delegate Rasoul. “Taking care of your family shouldn’t come with a penalty as you negotiate your wage or salary.”

Delegate Lee Carter spoke on three of his bills on workers’ compensation, all defeated in party-line votes in a Commerce & Labor subcommittee yesterday. They included a bill to end retaliation firinga bill to reform workers’ comp notificationand a bill that protects Virginia constructions workers when they work out of state.

Delegate Carter closed his remarks by noting “Only one party will stand up for working people, and that’s the Democratic Party.”

Delegate David Reid spoke to his bill that added cancers of the colon, brain, and testes to the list of cancers covered by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act for firefighters and certain employees. A bill identical to Delegate Reid‘s bill moved forward and he looks forward to continuing work on it as co-patron.

“What we now know – is that as part of our modern society, our firefighters are also being exposed to unseen killers and threats to their health,” Delegate Reidsaid. “We owe it to these brave public servants to ensure that they and their families are fairly compensated when their hazardous work environment jeopardizes their health.”

Delegate Kathy Tran spoke on her bill that ensures workers who are putting in overtime are fairly compensated.

“It’s extremely important that Virginians are compensated fairly for their work, especially when they work overtime,” said Delegate Tran. “My bill will put overtime protections into the Virginia code”.


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