As the General Assembly prepares to reconvene in session next Wednesday, a group of 29 Virginia business organizations called the Coalition for a Strong Virginia Economy, sent a letter to lawmakers asking they approve the Governor’s recent amendments to eight bills. Those pieces of legislation include an increase in the minimum wage and an expansion of union requirements that would raise costs for businesses in the Commonwealth at a time when they can least afford it.
“This is a very difficult time for most of Virginia’s small businesses as they have been forced to close or extremely limit operations, so piling on more costs now could be a death knell,” said Nicole Riley, state director of NFIB in Virginia. “It wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest to lose about half of the state’s jobs that these employers provide or endanger economic recovery for Virginia. It is important at this unprecedented time to hold off and step cautiously forward.”
“Manufacturing is playing a critical role in the health crisis by providing essential goods in the fight against COVID-19, but company revenues are still drastically reduced when compared to the time just before the outbreak,” said Brett Vassey, president, and CEO of the Virginia Manufacturer’s Association. “To ensure production continues through the many months it may take for the state to recover, burdening these businesses with higher costs now is most inappropriate–especially when jobs and company futures could be at risk.”
“Retail businesses are among the hardest hit by this pandemic, so even when the economy is slowly reopened it may be much longer before consumers feel comfortable walking into retail shops,” said Jodi Roth director of government relations for the Virginia Retail Federation. “If they survive it financially and bring back workers, it will be a long, slow climb—made tougher if these companies are saddled with higher costs, especially now.”
The letter to the state’s lawmakers from the business coalition said Virginia’s economy is in uncharted territory and the elected officials must understand the need to ensure businesses have the flexibility to adapt to the effects of the pandemic without more mandates.
A Copy of The Letter as Sent:
On behalf of the Coalition for a Strong Virginia Economy, our 29 business associations want to express our support for the Governor’s amendments to delay the implementation date to May 1, 2021 for legislation related to minimum wage, prevailing wage, project labor agreements and collective bargaining.
While we still oppose the underlying policies due to the inherent consequence of increasing the cost of doing business in the Commonwealth, a delay to May 1, 2021 would provide businesses a critical opportunity to restart operations and embark on a recovery before facing new and costly government mandates.
However, we cannot emphasize enough how devastating the current economic environment is for Virginia businesses. The vast majority of our member businesses are experiencing closures, reducing production and furloughing employees. Our members want to continue to operate, provide their services and products, and ensure their employees keep their jobs while keeping safety a top priority. However, the short-term and long-term challenges are immense. Early data indicates that many businesses will not survive extended closures and stay at home orders, and many more have indicated that their operations are unlikely to return to preCOVID-19 levels for some time.
Virginia’s economy finds itself in uncharted territory. It’s imperative that Virginia’s elected officials understand the need to ensure businesses have the flexibility to adapt to the effects of the pandemic without more mandates. Some economists are already predicting it could be the fall of 2021 before the economy shows signs of rebounding from the current health crisis. If that’s the case, an additional four months delay will not be enough and these issues will need to be revisited. Certainly, we’ll know more closer to the end of this year and we hope the Governor and General Assembly will be open to addressing the needs of Virginia’s business community to better support communities all across the Commonwealth.
As you review the Governor’s proposed changes to these bills, we respectfully request that you support his amendments to delay until May 1, 2021 the following legislation: Minimum Wage (HB 395 / SB 7); Prevailing Wage (HB 833 / SB 8); Project Labor Agreements (HB 358 / SB 182); and Collective Bargaining (HB 582 / SB 939). We hope this action will give Virginia’s businesses, large and small, manufacturers, retailers, construction, housing and agricultural and forestry industries an opportunity to rebuild their businesses, restore their customer base and rehire their employees before taking on additional government mandated costs.
We look forward to working with you through this public health and economic crisis.
Members of the Coalition for a Strong Economy
Associated Builders and Contractors of Virginia
Associated General Contractors of Virginia
Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce
Harrisonburg – Rockingham Chamber of Commerce
Heavy Construction Contractors Association
National Federation of Independent Business
Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce
Precast Concrete Association of Virginia
Richmond Area Municipal Contractors Association
Shellfish Growers of Virginia
Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy
Virginia Agribusiness Council
Virginia Association of Roofing Professionals
Virginia Association for Home Care and Hospice
Virginia Automatic Merchandising Association
Virginia Electric Cooperatives
Virginia Forestry Association
Virginia Forest Products Association
Virginia Loggers Association
Virginia Manufactured Association and Modular Housing Association
Virginia Manufacturers Association
Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce
Virginia Poultry Federation
Virginia Retail Federation
Virginia Retail Merchants Association
Virginia Seafood Council
Virginia Trucking Association
Virginia Veterinary Medical Association
Virginia Wholesalers and Distributors Association
Cc: Governor Ralph Northam
Clark Mercer, Chief of Staff
Brian Ball, Secretary of Commerce and Trade
Aubrey Layne, Secretary of Finance