A Democratic bill to repeal a Jim Crow era-law that legalized wage discrimination against many African-Americans is headed to the governor’s desk after being approved by the House of Delegates.
The bill, SB 1079, rescinds the law that allows employers to pay less than minimum wage to “newsboys, shoe-shine boys, ushers, doormen, concession attendants and theater cashiers” — jobs to which many African-Americans were relegated decades ago.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, said the exemptions were rooted in Virginia’s history of discrimination against African-Americans.
“It’s clear that this law was put into place to keep African-American Virginians from advancing,” Spruill said. “Hardworking Virginians deserve wage protections, regardless of the job that they do. I am proud to champion this long overdue legislation and to witness its bipartisan passage in the General Assembly.”
Spruill’s bill also eliminates the minimum wage exemption for babysitters if they work more than 10 hours per week.
The measure passed the Senate, 37-3, on Jan. 18. On Wednesday, Feb. 13, the House voted 18-14 in favor of a modified version of the bill. And on Friday,Feb. 15, the Senate unanimously approved that version and sent it to Gov. Ralph Northam to be signed into law.
In 2018, Del. Paul Krizek, D-Alexandria, carried a bill with the same intent, and it died in committee. Krizek said the minimum-wage exemptions were “obviously aimed at African Americans who were in these service jobs because those were the jobs they could get at the time.”