Florida Needs a Higher Minimum Wage Now

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IN OTHER NEWS

A regular column based on open-source reporting  about continuing issues of interest to the electorate that deserve our attention as Democrats. 

By Rich Leonard, Communications Committee

REFERENDUM FOR HIGHER WAGES

Floridians could decide in November whether to very gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. Gradually is emphasized because many newspaper headlines and opponents of the referendum will create the impression that the increase to $15 an hour would happen immediately.

If approved by at least 60 percent of the voters, Florida’s hourly minimum wage of $8.46 would rise to $10 by Sept. 30, 2021. Annual September increases of $1 would eventually lift the wage to $15 an hour by 2026, and adjusted for inflation annually thereafter.

The Florida Supreme cleared the way for the vote with a unanimous ruling Dec. 18  that the proposed state constitutional amendment complied with the “single subject” for citizens’ initiatives.

The campaign to raise the minimum wage will face opposition from Florida business groups – including the Florida Chamber of Commerce – and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

So once again, Republicans will stand firm against the interest of working families and the working poor.

Anyone making $8.46 an hour struggle to pay everyday expenses such as rent, baby formula, sneakers, produce, prescription medications, cable service, car payments, auto insurance and more. They may have to work five hours just to fill their gas tanks.

And how many workers making $8.46 receive benefits, including health insurance? Very few, I suspect, because employers hold down their hours to avoid paying benefits. Many work two jobs to make ends meet and still can’t afford health insurance.

A raise to $15 an hour would be significant, but six years from today? How much will a bag of lettuce cost in 2026? Or rent, or homeowner’s insurance, or auto insurance, or a visit to the emergency room?

Republicans will fight this referendum because that’s what they do: oppose help for working families. The Chamber of Commerce will oppose the measure as well, ignoring the fact that a significant portion of wage increases will be spent locally.

If this referendum makes its way on the ballot, we Democrats must rally in support of hard-working families and call out our state representatives who oppose.

Honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine that anyone living comfortably would not pay an extra 10 cents for their morning coffee or 15 cents for their take-out lunch to help out those who need and deserve a fair return for their work.

 

This opinion column was based on reporting by Lloyd Dunkelberger of The Phoenix in Tallahassee, FL. 

 

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