With Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity expected to announce soon a new minimum wage for 2020, South Florida workers who earn around the state minimum are calling for a gradual wage increase to $15 per hour.
The state’s minimum wage is currently $8.46 per hour. Later in October, the state is expected to announce an annual increase to the wage to keep it adjusted for inflation.
Over the past seven years, the annual increases have varied, but none have been more than 20 cents.
During a press conference on Wednesday with local janitors and other workers, Democratic State Senator José Javier Rodríguez said another small increase this year will not be enough to cover the cost of living in South Florida. He said the state should begin gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2027.
“When you speak to the workers, one of the things that’s most frustrating is no matter how good a job they do, no matter how much seniority they have on the job, it’s just very very hard to get ahead and they have to work a lot of shifts just to make ends meet,” Rodríguez said near the Torch of Friendship in Downtown Miami.
Rodríguez noted he’s been proposing the $15 increase in the Florida Legislature but other lawmakers have rejected the idea.
“I haven’t even been able to convince my colleagues to allow a workshop, a discussion about the minimum wage and its impact on us economically,” he said.
Opponents of a higher wage say it will strain small businesses and eliminate jobs.
As an end-around to passing a $15 minimum in the legislature, a new ballot initiative seeks to let Florida voters decide on the issue in the 2020 election. The constitutional amendment proposal, spear-headed by Orlando lawyer John Morgan, calls for an initial increase to $10 an hour and then a dollar per year increase until the wage hits $15.
The initiative has already gathered the required 766,200 public signatures to go on the ballot. The Florida Supreme Court must now approve it. It will need at least 60 percent support from voters to become law.
Workers at Wednesday’s press conference said a larger wage increase would help them pay everyday expenses for food, housing and medicine.
One local janitor, Elsa Romero, has two daughters and earns just over the minimum wage at $9 per hour. She said she has diabetes but has to ration her insulin because she cannot afford all of the dosages.
“I’m scared of dying and leaving my daughters behind,” Romero said.