Elaine Luria said workers at her former business were paid less than $15

Rep. Elaine Luria (D., Va.) / Getty Images • April 14, 2021 2:55 pm

When Rep. Elaine Luria (D., Va.) ran for office in 2018, she presented herself as a small business owner who understood the economic risk of a uniform minimum wage hike: It would “cause risk to my business and other businesses,” she said then.

In her first year in office, however, Luria sold her small business—and abandoned her opposition to a one-size-fits-all $15 minimum wage.

Luria sold the Mermaid Factory, a design-your-own-craft shop, on July 1, 2019, according to her financial disclosures. Just 17 days later, Luria voted for legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour across the country, a move she just a year earlier said would “cause risk” to businesses.

The vote was a stark reversal from Luria’s position as a candidate, when she leaned on her experience as a small business owner to argue that, while the minimum wage of $7.25 was unacceptable, any increase would have to be gradual and take into consideration that “different areas of the country have different costs of living.”

“I think that as a business owner as well, an immediate jump in the minimum wage could cause risk to my business and to other businesses, so I think that a gradual raise in the minimum wage, indexed to inflation, is essential,” Luria said during a 2018 candidate forum. “We need to look at that based off of different areas of the country have different costs of living.”

Luria’s reversal came as increasing the minimum wage emerged as a Democratic priority in the House. Self-styled moderates have been pushed to jettison objections to the federal wage hike—the very positions that helped them get elected in previously Republican-held districts—to stay in line with party leadership.

For Luria, it’s both a reversal of policy and her own business practices. According to her own admission, Luria paid workers less than $15 an hour. During the same candidate

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