Minimum wage workers in Florida hoping for a pay raise will soon get their wish.
A constitutional amendment that would raise the baseline wage to $15 by 2026 had support from nearly 61% of voters, above the 60% threshold needed for passing. It will increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021, and then increase it by $1 each year until it hits $15 per hour. Currently, the minimum wage is $8.56.
The vote is outside the 0.5% margin that would trigger a recount.
Florida for a Fair Wage, the group behind the initiative declared victory late Tuesday night.
“A super-majority of Florida’s voters have clearly spoken – all working Floridians will receive a fair wage for a hard day’s work.” said campaign senior advisor Ben Pollara. “Thank you to our campaign chairman, John Morgan, who spearheaded this initiative, to the large and small unions across Florida that fought tirelessly for this, and for the millions of voters that supported this campaign.”
The push to raise the minimum wage — Amendment 2 on the Florida ballot — is one business interests strongly resisted, noting that it would threaten fragile operations across the state.
Stalwart business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and conservative activist groups like Americans for Prosperity backed the “Amendment 2 Hurts You” group that worked against the pitch, saying it would impose onerous burdens on businesses ill-positioned to shoulder them, especially during a season of pandemic uncertainty.
NFIB Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said an October analysis showed that 20% of small businesses were unsure if they would remain operational in the next six months.
“This makes 2021 a greater challenge for small businesses. Throw it on, we’ll see if this breaks the camel’s back,” Herrle said.
But the Fight for $15, as it’s known nationwide, was not without its own powerful advocate making the case, one who had successfully made a constitutional end-run around the Florida Legislature legalizing medical marijuana in a previous election cycle.
The ballot initiative from Florida For A Fair Wage was lawyer Morgan‘s priority for the 2020 cycle, with the more than $5.3 million campaign largely funded by Morgan and his law firm, Morgan and Morgan P.A.
Morgan, in forums and interviews over the past year, has strenuously contended opposition is just the business community justifying “slave wages” for those in the service sectors.
While business owners against the proposal have complained the step raises for entry-level workers would not only cut into margins but also into the workforce, advocates take a different tack. They contend that for Florida’s most vulnerable populations, Amendment 2 would offer a road out of poverty.
The amendment, if these results hold, would take the minimum wage, currently set at $8.46 an hour, and increase it to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021. It would then increase a dollar more each year until 2026.
Campaign senior advisor Ben Pollara said in a press release late Tuesday that “a super-majority of Florida’s voters have clearly spoken – all working Floridians will receive a fair wage for a hard day’s work.”
Florida is the eighth state to adopt a $15 minimum wage, and supporters said it is needed to improve the standard of living of many workers.
“This will help me a whole lot, I know it will,” said Gail Rogers, a 60-year old Ybor City resident who, after working at McDonald’s for six years, said she earns $9.40 an hour.
Rogers, a widow who resides in a rooming house for women, is a member of the nationwide group Fight for $15 and has routinely protested her low wages in recent years.
“I can earn a little more cash. I can save more,” she said of the higher minimum wage. “I can save until I get to where I need to be at. I am not where I need to be at.”
While Amendment 2 faced opposition from many business groups, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was quiet about where he stood on the proposed constitutional amendment until right before Election Day, when he issued a statement in which he said now is “not the time” to increase the minimum wage, warning that its passage would be bad for Florida businesses and the state.
Andrew Wiggins, senior director of political affairs and coalitions advocacy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said that while the minimum wage amendment was meant to draw out progressive voters, Amendment 1, which changed the Constitution to make clear only citizens can vote, was designed to appeal to more conservative voters. Amendment 1 was easily passing Tuesday night, with support from about 79% of voters.
“A lot of the amendments in Florida are used as turnout gimmick,” he said, adding that “Florida is one of the “easiest states in the country” to get amendments on the ballot
“They are used by groups to try to motivate voters who might not otherwise turn up for an election to vote,” he said.
Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.