For black workers, the wage gap has narrowed by just two cents over the past four decades.
Do you feel like you earn a fair wage in your job? According to Rev. Anthony Fludd, associate pastor of St. Johns Church of God in Christ, Newport News, a fair wage should be enough for a worker and his family.
Fludd joined the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (TCI) and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, co-hosts of a virtual press conference focused on working Virginians and their wages.
“There is a difference between moral and immoral. Everything moral is a work of God. And as Creator of all of us, He cares about our economic well-being, and that’s a work of grace. For where there is injustice, where sin prevails, grace abounds even more,” Fludd said. “We have learned during this pandemic how many low-wage workers are willing to put themselves at risk for their business and for their community – in fact, for all of us. So let’s pay tribute to the many people whose work is a blessing to society – and yet they struggle to care for their own families.
As Fludd’s comments show, a wage gap persists in Virginia. But how much? TCI and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy recently uncovered some data that might shock — and disturb — you.
“In Virginia, most economically poor families have one or more working people, but they don’t earn enough or have enough support to lift them out of poverty,” said Kim Bobo, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith. Center for Public Policy. “Therefore, for those of us who care about poverty, care about our neighbors, we need to care about the wages, benefits and working conditions of workers in Virginia.”
The Commonwealth pay gap exists in several groups. However, those hardest hit have swung to both racism and sexism.
The research revealed:
- Women of color have been hardest hit by wage inequality in Virginia, with black women being paid 59 cents for every dollar paid to white men and Latina women being paid 52 cents.
- The wage gap between Hispanic and non-Hispanic white workers widened from 72 cents on the dollar in 2001 to 68 cents on the dollar in 2021
- Black workers in Virginia received 72 cents for every dollar a white worker was paid in 1979 and 74 cents for every dollar a white worker earned in 2021
“The report is not just a list of important facts and figures related to Virginia workers, but it is a call to action and an invitation to take a deep dive into what the data is telling us,” Ashley Kenneth, President and CEO of TCI, says in a press conference. “What is clear is that Virginia is in the top 10 states when it comes to median household income, but many workers, especially workers of color, still face significant barriers to economic stability. We have and should take this opportunity to ensure that Virginia not only remains a top state for business, but becomes a top state for the workers who make business possible.
Fludd further noted that being paid fairly for service provided by anyone “is an audience worth speaking out for.”
“You shouldn’t have to go to work every day thinking, ‘How am I going to make enough money to put food on my table to feed my children and my family?’ Or, ‘How am I going to pay for my family’s medical and healthcare needs?’ “said Fludd. “Especially in these times of inflation, who suffers the most? They are the economically disadvantaged. It’s not just depressing, it’s oppressive.
Although a pay gap persists, the State of Working Virginia report noted that there has been progress over the past five years, both nationally and statewide.
- Minimum wage increase
- Medicaid expansion has helped workers in low-wage jobs without health care benefits access affordable, comprehensive care
- Stronger protections against wage theft
- Vocational Training Opportunities in Virginia
- Virginia increased salaries for state employees
- Virginia’s earned income tax credit improved in 2022, providing an income boost for low-income families at tax time
“These are important advances for workers and their families in Virginia. In the years to come, advocates who care about poverty and low-wage workers will seek to protect these important efforts,” Bobo said. “However, as the report clearly shows, what we have done so far is not enough. The economy is growing, businesses are prospering, and yet many workers are not benefiting from this prosperity. More needs to be done for all workers in low-wage jobs, and we need to find ways to close the income gaps for African American and Latino workers.
To maintain momentum, the pastor encouraged action.
“We have to act. We have to compel our legislators to act,” Fludd said. “Remember this: a fair wage provides a decent living for a worker and their household. basic social security to workers and their households Its structures must be non-discriminatory Wages alone are not excess – they are only displayed proportionally within the wider economic community Wages reflect worker participation Salary takes into account performance, qualification and type of work, and it also supports trust in our society.