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November 2001
Letters to the Editor: Creigh Deeds Answers Living Wage Questionnaire
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Living Wage Questionnaire

1. Living Wages and State Institutions: The University of Virginia, a state institution, is the major employer in our district. How, as a member of the legislature, would you deal with the fact that many of their employees receive less than a living wage?

Answer: Public employers should set an example for the private sector by paying a living wage. There are too many part time, low wage, no benefit employees carrying too much weight for all our state agencies. We must find a better way to take care of our people. More funding is ultimately the answer, but for now we must continue to work with the agencies and the Department of Personnel and Training to ensure that those at the lowest rung of the pay scale are paid a living wage.

Just this past session, there were at least two bills introduced by Republican legislators that would have reduced the ability of government to provide a living wage. The only one to reach the floor was HB1931 which would have prohibited public bodies from using best value to require contractors to pay wage rates established by the public body. I voted against that bill twice.

A second bill HB2862 would have specifically prevented localities from having living wage requirements was killed in committee. These bills point out the necessity of retaining this Senate seat. Raising state employee pay generally depends on leadership and experience in the General Assembly. A Republican controlled Assembly got us into the budget mess and left all state employees high and dry.

2. Living Wages and Private Employers: Virginia is a right-to-work state. This inhibits workers' ability to organize into unions and removes from our lowest paid workers a vital tool in improving living standards. How would you address private employers who do not today pay a living wage?

Answer: In our market based economy, I have trouble mandating that private sector emloyees pay a wage above the minimum wage established by federal law, or that negotiated between the worker or the union, and the employer. I think that the public sector must set the example, and from that the private sector will follow, just to remain competitive.

Creigh Deeds (electronic mail, November 4, 2001).

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