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Week 2: 2021 General Assembly Session

This was the first full week of the General Assembly session, and boy, things are moving FAST!

Even with both chambers having bill limits, still. thousands of bills are pouring in daily and lots of pieces of legislation that will effect labor are in the mix!


With that being said, we lobbied on over 10 bills this week, but here are just 3 pieces of legislation from the week:


HB 1786 - Minimum Wage; Include Farmworkers - Delegate Jeion Ward : Eliminates the exemption from Virginia's minimum wage requirements for persons employed as farm laborers or farm employees.


This bill, championed by fellow union member Jeion Ward is a critical piece of legislation because farmworkers deserve to be paid at least the minimum wage. No one who works full time should have to live in poverty. A consumer-based economy simply doesn’t work if people have no disposable income. Therefore, an increase in the minimum wage is needed in order to assist in disposable income promotion and to fuel our consumer-based economy.


This bill was assigned to the House Labor and Commerce Committee - Subcommittee #1 .


HB 2040 - Unemployment Benefits; Worker Protections - Delegate Sally Hudson :

Addresses the legal hurdles slowing down payments to people in need including Virginians who’ve had their benefits cut off through no fault of their own. It also creates a sense of urgency for employers to respond to VEC requests in a timely and adequate manner. Employers who fail to respond to 2 or more requests in a 48-month period surrender their right to appeal the claim, and provides that an individual who receives an overpayment is not liable to repay the overpayments as long as it was due to an administrative error or inducement or solicitation of the employer and not due to fraud or misrepresentation by the recipient. Therefore, putting the onus for making proper payments onto the state where it belongs.


COVID-19 continues to ravage our entire nation, and since March of 202, more than 1 in 6 Virginians have filed for unemployment. Meanwhile, there are well-over 70,000 Virginians still waiting for their unemployment benefits. This is unacceptable, and there's no doubt that this bill must pass this session.


This bill was assigned to the House Labor and Commerce Committee - Subcommittee #1 .


SB 1360 - Safe & Thriving Workplace Act - Senator Jennifer McClellan

The Safe and Thriving Workplace Act provides a clear definition of harassment that reflects the realities of workplace harassment. This bill also provides needed clarity to procedural elements of the Virginia Human Rights Act, and it provides for a consistent “5 or more employees” employer-size threshold across all HRA discrimination claims. The legislation also clarifies awards of “attorney fees and costs” include reasonable litigation expenses, proves beneficial for businesses by providing clarity about what constitutes unlawful harassment, which will help employers prevent and stop harassment, helps employers avoid liability and the lasting human impacts of harassment that translate into business costs, such as decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and diminished recruitment and retention.


Confronting harassment requires addressing the underlying conditions that drive abuse—particularly a lack of access to basic labor rights, job security and protection from retaliation. Changing the workplace harassment laws would ensure that Virginia’s working people have equality, equity, and justice within the workplace so that harassment can no longer be used as a tool to preserve the unequal position of women and other marginalized groups within the workplace and society.


This bill was assigned to the Senate Committee on General Laws and Technology.


BILL WATCH:

Again, thousands of bills are on our radar, but for this week, one bill to watch:

HB 2228- Workers' Compensation: Repetitive Injury - Delegate Elizabeth Guzman : Brings Virginia in line with the other 49 States on Repetitive Injury Coverage under the workers' compensation system.


Under the current Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, in order for a claim to be compensable, workers have to be able to pinpoint an exact beginning and ending time of when the injury occurred. This is a uniquely rare standard with Virginia being the only state where employers do not have to compensate work-related repetitive injuries.

This legislation would make the workers compensation system far less complicated, and it would especially benefit workers employed in plants and other workplaces where repetitive activities are a normal part of the work day.


This bill was assigned to the House Labor and Commerce Committee - Subcommittee #1 .


THINGS TO REMEMBER:

Here are a couple other quick links that may be useful to you during session:


HOUSE OF DELEGATES

During the House's virtual session, constituents must be aware of the new system to make public comments. To make public comment, visit https://hodspeak.house.virginia.gov/.

You can also check out our "How to Testify Guide" for the House of Delegates on our "2021 General Assembly Page" to learn how to sign up, a few tips and tricks, and more.


SENATE

To make public comment, visit https://apps.senate.virginia.gov/Senator/dockets.php . You can also check out our "How to Testify Guide" for the Senate on our "2021 General Assembly Page" to learn how to sign up, a few tips and tricks, and more.


For any other information pertaining to the General Assembly, just check out: the Virginia General Assembly Website. Too, don't forget to check out the rest of our website for the latest updates, information, and more on all the action going down at the General Assembly!


With all of these new changes, we at Virginia AFL-CIO need your help lobbying our legislators. Join us by signing up to lobby. Together, we can ensure that our voice aren't just heard, but that what we are saying gets acted upon.


We hope that you are just as ready and excited for this 2021 General Assembly session as we are! We look forward to seeing you and working together to keep workers first here in Virginia.

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