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Governor Youngkin’s Veto Denies Minimum Wage Protections for Virginia’s Farmworkers

HB157 would have corrected a vestige of the Jim Crow Era and protected some of our most vulnerable workers

RICHMOND, VA Today, during National Farmworker Awareness Week, Governor Youngkin vetoed HB 157, a bill that would have extended long-overdue minimum wage protections to Virginia’s farmworkers and migrant workers on temporary visas.

The Governor’s decision to veto this bill and deny basic wage protections not only doubles down on his efforts to devalue and degrade Virginia’s workers, but also further widens the economic gap between agricultural workers and the rest of the Commonwealth’s workforce. 

At the same time, this Administration is perfectly comfortable continuing to reward the bad actors who exploit agricultural workers and take advantage of this intentional lack of wage protections.

While it is well documented that these exemptions are predicated on discriminatory Jim Crow Laws from nearly a century ago, the Governor chose to stand on the wrong side of history when he vetoed this bill.

Now, agricultural workers and the coalition of advocates and farmers who support them must continue to work under an untenable status quo. However, this same coalition remains committed to advocating for those workers whose tireless, back-breaking labor puts food on all of our tables.

“This common sense legislation was developed in consultation with small farmers, workers, advocates, and other partners,” Del. Adele McClure said. “Their advocacy resulted in passing a bill that would have corrected a historic wrong while also shielding some of Virginia’s hardest workers from economic abuse. With so many responsible farmers here in the Commonwealth doing right by their employees, it is disheartening that the Governor’s veto continues to protect the employers that demand higher and higher yields for less and less pay. However, I am dedicated to continuing to work alongside this coalition to hold these outliers accountable and finally secure a just economic future for our farm workers.”

“Every time that farmworkers are left behind, we will be ready to be on the front lines and work side by side with them until all the workers in Virginia are treated as equals and have the right to a minimum wage,” said Manuel Gago, Co-Director of the Workers Justice Program of Legal Aid Justice Center. 

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