House Bill 4023, which increases the Minimum Wage for some workers in West Virginia, passed the Legislature earlier today and is now on its way to the Governor's office for his signature. The bill has been through a number of twists and turns making its way through the Legislature, but its passage is a good step in the right direction.
The bill increases the state minimum wage in three stages to $7.25 by June 2008 for state employees and WV workers not currently covered by the federal minimum wage -- approximately 1,550 workers.
While the original version of the bill was stronger and would have covered more workers, this is a step in the right direction and will increase the pressure to increase the minimum wage for all workers next year.
The bill survived last ditch efforts by some Republican leaders to "love the bill to death" by attaching amendments that, while appearing positive, would have killed the bill.
Amendments were offered by Senators who oppose the bill to expand coverage to all workers and another to cover all county and municipal employees. Make no mistake, these amendments were NOT made in good faith -- they were intended to kill the bill while offering political cover to their sponsors.
It was an unusual sight on the floor of the state Senate last night, hearing Senator Clark Barnes (Rep. Randolph) make a speech using OUR talking points to support an amendment which was offered strictly in an attempt to kill the bill. Then hearing Senator Jon Hunter (Dem. Monongalia), who is one of the biggest supporters of increasing the minimum wage, argue against the amendment.
As Senator Hunter suggested, hopefully Republicans and conservative Democratic Senators who "claimed" to support expanding the minimum wage to more workers will join in sponsoring the legislation next year.
Congratulations and thanks to everyone who contacted legislators and helped this bill pass. Hopefully, the federal government will take heed from the ever growing number of states that are increasing the minimum wage (19 so far) and take action to ensure a living wage for ALL workers in our country.