Last week, a bipartisan group of national, state and local officials, including Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former Governor Charlie Christ, State Senator Anitere Flores, State Representatives Jose Javier Rodriguez and Darryl Rouson, as well as mayors and city commissioner from Miami, Gainesville and St. Petersburg, said that is simply not enough. The press conferences came as a result of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announcing a trivial increase to the state’s minimum wage from $8.05 per hour to $8.10 per hour. State officials should champion minimum wage increases that would help lift thousands of Florida families out of poverty.
“Families should not be having to make the decision to pay child care or keep the lights on,” said Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. “According to several studies, states and cities that have increased the minimum wage are actually seeing larger job growth versus those that have not.”
Local governments across Florida are pushing back against efforts to restrict cities and counties from raising the minimum wage, setting their own living wages, enforcing wage theft policies and other policy decisions best made by local government. Earlier this year, the City of Miami Beach voted to set a city-wide minimum wage $5 higher than the state’s minimum wage.
“A $15 minimum wage will help women, people of color, and immigrants,” said Maria Elena Hernandez a janitor at Nova University and 32BJ SEIU member. “It will help people like me who have come to this country for better opportunities but sometimes times find that we get caught up in a cycle of poverty. Many of us are barely surviving on jobs that pay too little, as we try to build a better future for our families.”
Throughout the country, as part of the Fight for 15 movement, millions of low-wage workers have risen up and won $15 in numerous cities, counties, and most recently, New York State. In Florida, airport workers, fast food employees, home health aides, and other underpaid workers have held rallies and gone on strike, calling for $15 and union.
“If you work full-time, you should not live below the poverty line,” said State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez. “We must support the efforts of local governments that are trying to raise the minimum wage, not get in their way.”
Facts about the minimum wage in Florida:
In 2004, more than half a million Floridians signed a petition to take back control of their government and place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to increase the state’s minimum wage, index it with inflation and not preempt local governments from doing the same.
That same year, seventy-one percent of residents, more than five million, voted to bypass the state legislative process and cement higher wages in the Constitution of the State of Florida. Without a vote of an overwhelming number of residents, our state would be even farther behind. The minimum wage is increased based on a formula tied to inflation.
Many working families are forced to depend on public assistance because they are paid low wages, have unstable work hours, poor working conditions, and have limited to no benefits. If corporations paid higher wages and provided benefits to their employees, taxpayer-funded public assistance to the economically vulnerable would decrease, saving taxpayers billions of dollars each year.
Increases in the minimum wage, including this token five cents for 2017, have not kept up with the cost of living in Florida, especially in the state’s most heavily populated communities in South Florida, Tampa Bay and Orlando. Lawmakers are coming together to give a voice to the millions of low-wage workers who are working hard every day to provide for their families.