HARRISONBURG — Ramona Sanders and Chris Hoover Seidel felt it was fitting to spend part of their Labor Day raising awareness for the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Living Wage Certification organization.
As steering committee members, Sanders and Hoover Seidel are responsible for reviewing applications of local businesses that meet the qualifications of providing employees with a living wage.
The new program is linked through the Virginia Chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
Because Virginia’s local communities are not currently allowed to raise their local minimum wage laws, VICPP wants to recognize businesses who pay their employees the living wage.
The campaign publicly recognizes the local businesses who have applied and been certified through the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Living Wage Certification, which can be found at https://www.hrlivingwage.org.
There are four living wage certification levels. The highest is gold, which means the business pays its employees $15 an hour, or $13.50 plus health care. The silver level is for businesses paying employees $12.50 an hour or $11 plus health care. The aspiring level is for those paying $11 an hour or $9.50 plus health care but commit to raising wages over a two-year period.
The wages are based on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology calculator and Universal Living Wage Calculator.
On Monday, Sanders and Hoover Seidel met with local business owners at Gray Jay Provisions to raise awareness for the importance of a living wage.
The national minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour for the last decade and Virginia has followed suit. While wages have not increased, the cost of living has continued to rise.
Currently, an individual making minimum wage would need to work one and a half full-time jobs in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market value, Sanders said. In fact, lack of affordable housing and lack of a living wage are the top two causes of homelessness.
The steering committee for the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Living Wage organization meets monthly to review applications submitted by local businesses and organizations. So far they’ve received seven applications and approved six, Sanders said, one of which is Gray Jay Provisions, which hosted the organization’s launch on Monday.
“This is about positive reinforcement — if customers value certain businesses because of the wages offered, other businesses will want to join in and be a part of the effort,” Seidel said.
James Madison University adopted a living wage for its full-time employees in July, according to previous Daily News-Record reports. Full-time employees work around 2,080 hours a year.
Certification programs exist in Charlottesville, Richmond, Alexandria, James City County and Northern Virginia.