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The Florida Roundup

Florida's lowest paid workers get a pay raise, and DeSantis tells state police not to work with feds on immigration

Kinoy Miller
Lynne Sladky/AP
/
AP
Kinoy Miller prepares food at the Love Life Cafe Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami. Florida voters approved raising state's minimum wage eventually to $15 an hour. The first increase took affect Thursday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The minimum wage is now $10 an hour on its way to $15 an hour in years to come. What will that mean for those making the minimum wage, and the companies having to pay more? Also, Gov. DeSantis tells state police not to work with immigration authorities helping to relocate undocumented migrants

If you earn the minimum wage in Florida, you got a raise this week. If you’re an employer and you pay the minimum wage, you now have to spend more of your payroll on those workers.

The state’s minimum wage went up Thursday to $10 an hour, up from $8.65. It’s the largest percentage increase in the state’s history. And it’s what Florida voters approved in 2020 with the approval of a constitutional amendment.

The pay hikes will continue — $1 a year for the next five years until the minimum wage hits $15 an hour. The pay hikes likely will be concentrated among hospitality and retail workers — industries typically paying the minimum rate.

But many restaurants and stores have been raising pay even before the state-required hike. The shortage of workers during the pandemic has led to higher starting pay and raises to attract and keep people around.

The new money for workers will go further in some areas of Florida, but not as far in the more expensive regions of the state. It also pressures companies that may not have much ability to raise prices to customers to cover the higher payroll.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association lobbied against the amendment before the vote. It remains opposed, but General Counsel Samantha Padgett acknowledged the labor market has changed. "Our perspective has had to shift somewhat based on the nature of the economy in response to the pandemic," she said.

"Not only have (restaurant operators) had to increase the wages by requirement through this amendment, but they're also having to increase wages in response to the labor shortage. And they're also potentially having to increase prices or face supply shortages because of transportation issues and supply availability issues." said Padgett.

In August, the hospitality and leisure industry had added more than 150,000 jobs over the past year in Florida as the minimum wage hike approached, and the pandemic continued.

Padgett said, "I think that it's hard to take either one of those things in their individual silos because they're things that are happening simultaneously to employers throughout the state of Florida."

The new minimum wage puts the pay per hour above what it is adjusted for inflation over the past 20 years. However, Ali Bustamante, researcher with FIU’s Research Institute On Social and Economic Policy, said if productivity gains are reflected over the past several decades, "we would be seeing right now minimum wage that would be upwards $20 an hour."

Chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce Charles Caulkins is worried about what he called "unintended consequences" of the mandated hike. The Chamber opposed the amendment.

"The minimum wage today only really applies to those with low skills or low experience," he said. "The workers who are just trying to get into the workforce and learn how to be a worker and learn what it means to come to work on time, how to get team work skills, those sort of things. These are the people who are going to be harmed by this increase."

Lack of immigration cooperation

Florida filed a lawsuit this week against Pres. Joe Biden’s administration, claiming his immigration policy along the Southern border is illegal.

“Our pleas to this president have gone with no response," said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on Tuesday. "Who are you releasing? What are their criminal backgrounds? Who is being resettled in our state so we know its effects on our states. So we can lead effectively with due regard to the safety and stability of our communities."

Gov. Ron DeSantis also signed an executive order barring state police from assisting with the relocation of undocumented immigrants arriving in Florida.

"We also encourage both FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) and Florida Highway Patrol to detain vehicles such as buses or aircraft if they’re transporting illegal aliens from the southwest border if there’s reasonable suspicion that the vehicle is being used for human trafficking or drug trafficking," he said Tuesday.

The order does not apply to all law enforcement officers in Florida, such as county sheriff's deputies. Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly's officers don't encounter undocumented immigrants often, but he has experienced a change in working with federal immigration authorities.

"We had relationship with ICE agents that if we did encounter illegal immigrants, we could call and they would pick them up. That has come to a complete stop," Staly said.

The executive order from Gov. DeSantis also ordered the agencies to gather information on the identities of any immigrants arriving illegally in Florida from the Mexico border, and told state agencies not to spend money assisting those immigrants unless required by law.

Staly said no undocumented immigrants who had been held in a Florida prison have been released in Flagler County.

Thomas Kennedy, political director for Florida Immigrant Coalition, called the governor's actions a "complete waste of taxpayer dollars.

"It's a strain on the bureaucracy of the state, particularly the ordered detention of people suspected of transporting undocumented people," Kennedy said.

In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.