Rally Calls for Medicaid Expansion, $15 Minimum Wage, and Driver’s Licenses for Virginia Undocumented Immigrants

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney to Join Rally with Coalition of Low-Wage Workers and Immigrants

WHEN: 11:00 a.m., Wednesday, January 24, 2018

WHERE: Bell Tower on Capitol grounds, corner of N. 9th Street & E. Franklin Street, Richmond, VA


Take Action Virginia, a coalition of low-wage workers and immigrants;

Mayor Levar M. Stoney;

Senator Scott Surovell;

Senator Rosalyn Dance;

Delegate Jennifer Boysko;

Delegate Marcus Simon; and others.

RICHMOND, VA – Take Action Virginia, a coalition of low-wage workers and immigrants, will hold a rally and press conference at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday at Bell Tower on capitol grounds to call on Virginia legislators to expand Medicaid, increase the state’s minimum wage to $15, and provide access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants working in the Commonwealth.

Legislators from both parties support a measure to authorize driver’s licenses to immigrants working in Virginia, who alone contribute $5.5 billion in gross state product to the state economy, according to a 2008 report by the Perryman Group, an economic analysis firm. At least 12 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation. Having a state-issued form of ID allows undocumented people to open checking accounts, and also allows law enforcement officials to have positive and verifiable form of identification when detaining individuals.

“Having a driver’s license is about economic security for my family and safety for everyone,” stated Hilda Espinosa, a member of CASA in Action from Stafford County, Virginia. “Being able to drive to work and getting my kids from school is a necessity, and having a document that identifies who I am is paramount.”

Take Action Virginia is also calling on state legislators to expand Medicaid. 400,000 Virginians would be eligible for crucial healthcare benefits under an expanded Medicaid program, but the Commonwealth is one of just 18 largely Republican-controlled states which have opted out of expanding the federally funded program. Governor Ralph Northam has described Medicaid expansion as a top priority of his administration.

“Ralph Northam’s election was a clear rebuke of the politics of hate practiced by Republicans in Congress and in Virginia,” said Jaime Contreras, a Vice President at 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents over 4,000 immigrant and African-American workers in Virginia. “His support for a $15 minimum wage and Medicaid expansion resonated more powerfully with working families than an empty, Trumpian message of hate. His victory proves that Virginians want a leader who will fight to improve the lives of all working people, regardless of their skin color.”

While the Senate’s Commerce and Labor Committee voted last week to shelve a bill boost the minimum wage, advocates are continuing calls to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 by 2020.

California, New York and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation, along with several cities and municipalities. 61% of Americans live in a jurisdiction with a minimum wage above the federal level, and in the next five years, 17% of Americans will live in a jurisdiction with a $15 minimum wage, according to a recent analysis by Fortune magazine.

“The federal minimum wage has been frozen for nearly ten years,” said Mark Federici, president of UFCW Local 400. “We have a president who has never had to work a day in his life – but somehow thinks $7.25 an hour is too high – and a Republican-controlled Congress who is only interested in giving tax breaks to the wealthiest few. It’s up Virginia lawmakers to do the right thing and boost the wage floor for hard-working men and women, like so many other states and local municipalities have done.”

While the minimum wage in Virginia is only $7.25, an individual living in the city of Richmond requires an hourly wage of at least $12.34 to cover the cost of living, according to Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That number nearly doubles to $24.06 if the individual has just one child to support. A $15 hourly wage amounts to just $31,000 per year for a person working a 40-hour week – this does not mean luxury – but a step toward a family-sustaining income.


Take Action Virginia is a progressive and diverse alliance of organizations working to win social, economic, and racial justice for all working families in Virginia that includes 32BJ SEIU, SEIU Virginia 512, CASA in Action, LiUNA! Mid-Atlantic, NAKASEC Action Fund, UNITE HERE Local 23, UNITE HERE Local 25, and UFCW Local 400. The member organizations of Take Action Virginia collectively represent tens of thousands of Virginians employed as home care workers, parks staff, librarians, building cleaners, nurses, construction & highway workers, hotel workers, retail employees, and more. They include African-American, immigrant, Latino, and Korean voters.