June 30, 2022
Defending Progress for Working People and Families: Summary of 2022 Legislative Action
Virginia has taken steps in recent years to become a state where working people have more voice and greater protections against unscrupulous corporations. However, the change in the General Assembly’s makeup – with split control of the House and Senate – has meant some of these improvements were under threat this year, with serious potential consequences for working people and families across the commonwealth. While most of these anti-worker proposals failed, lawmakers rolled back some critical protections that primarily impact people of color.
Below is a post-session summary of 2022 legislation related to collective bargaining, minimum wage, worker protections, and worker certification.
Local governments are now permitted to bargain collectively with their employees as a result of legislation passed in 2020. However, 2022 has seen various legislative efforts in the General Assembly to roll back collective bargaining for public-sector employees. Worker advocates in the Stronger Communities, A Better Bargain coalition led the efforts to defeat these efforts in the Senate.
Three bills patroned by Delegate Freitas (House Bill (HB) 335, HB 336, HB 337) that would have weakened bargaining units or their bargaining power passed the House but failed in the Senate. HB 883, which would have repealed the ability of localities to recognize unions as bargaining units for public employees, met this same fate. The Senate also rejected another bill (Senate Bill (SB) 721) by Sen. Obenshain designed to weaken bargaining units. Sen. Hashmi’s bill (SB 264), which would permit collective bargaining for all public employees in the state, was removed at her request.
Efforts to roll back Virginia’s minimum wage increase were also defeated in the Senate during the 2022 General Assembly session. Legislation related to stalling the minimum wage increase (HB 320) passed the House but failed in the Senate. Other legislation designed to weaken the minimum wage increase also failed, such as HB 1040 (which would have excluded workers of small business from the increase) and HB 296 (which attempted to count health care benefits as “wages”).
Lawmakers did roll back overtime protections for some workers (SB 631/HB 1173). The bills contained frustrating occupation-specific restrictions that exclude farmworkers and domestic workers. This is alarming given that farmworkers and domestic workers are disproportionately people of color, with women being the vast majority of domestic workers. These workers are already at higher risk for workplace abuse due the power dynamics of their workplace. As part of the bill, a stakeholder workgroup will convene to review overtime concerns by November 1, 2022.
Worker certification is one area where some progress was made during the legislative session, with positive implications for immigrant professionals as well as people with a criminal record. Legislation enabling a limited-term license for teachers certified outside of the United States passed the Virginia General Assembly (HB 979). In addition, Del. Coyer’s bill, HB 282 (which will not become effective unless passed again during the 2023 session) will permit a regulatory board to conduct individual assessments of applicants for licensure or certification instead of automatically denying these based on an applicant’s criminal record. Unfortunately, progress toward worker certification laws that recognize non-U.S. medical certifications was stalled: SB 676, which would have allowed the Board of Medicine to issue limited-term licenses to foreign-educated physicians, was struck down in the Education and Health committee.
As a result of the 2021 political shift in the General Assembly, worker’s rights stagnated in the 2022 legislative session. Perhaps most disappointingly, legislators rolled back overtime protections for farmworkers and domestic workers. On the positive side, efforts to attack collective bargaining and minimum wage increases were met with pushback from labor advocates and failed in the Senate. In addition, workers saw limited wins that may make employment certification more accessible for immigrant applicants and for applicants previously convicted of a crime. Looking forward, policymakers and legislators alike must make sure that 2023 sees greater gains for Virginia’s workforce, and that these gains are both equitable and statewide.