With muted fanfare, Florida’s minimum wage increased Thursday from $8.65 an hour to $10. By 2026, the minimum will be $15 per hour.
That’s five years away.
For a 40-hour workweek, the current minimum works out to $400 a week, before taxes. In many parts of the state, that would barely cover the rent on a small apartment, let alone the true cost of living.
The increase probably wouldn’t have happened without Amendment 2, which voters passed last November. Predictably, organizations like the Florida Chamber of Commerce opposed it.
The Chamber argued it would force “seniors and working families to pay more for necessities like food, clothing, and haircuts.”
But here’s the thing. The Chamber ignores the other side of the argument. In effect, they’re telling worker bees to quit griping and, as Rick Scott would say, “get to work.”
Companies wonder why so many jobs go unfilled. There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, but many have decided that working for meager pay isn’t worth the trouble.
It’s a shame it took a constitutional amendment to make this happen, but Florida built its economy on the backs of low-paid workers who made their employers rich. It’s past time to even the scales.
Some owners get it, though.
Bay News 9 reported on the co-owner of the Disco Dolls, a clothing store, hair salon, and art gallery based in Tampa.
Leigh Anne Balzekas said her store has six full-time employees, all of whom make $15 an hour.
“To train someone and keep talented employees — you do that by paying them fairly,” she said.
What a concept.
Now, it’s on to our weekly game of winners and losers.
Honorable mention — Greg Steube: The 43-year-old Republican U.S. Representative from Sarasota brought his A-game to the annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington.
He was the starting pitcher in the GOP’s 13-12 win, throwing 120 pitches over 5 2/3 innings before shifting to third base.
But the bigger story was what he did at the plate. In the third inning, he cranked the first pitch he saw back, back, back, and GONE! The ball landed in the left-field seats, and Steube got to show off his home-run trot.
It was the first out-of-the-park home run in 40 years for this game.
Fittingly, Steube also caught a popup for the final out of the game with the tying run on base.
Sign him up!
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner — The Kennedy Space Center: The news doesn’t get much better than this. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans to build a space satellite factory at the famed center on Florida’s east coast.
It will cost $300 million to build and employ 2,100 people. The factory, when complete, will have the capacity to produce 1,000 satellites a year.
“This will be the largest satellite manufacturing facility in the entire world,” DeSantis said.
The satellites Terran Orbital will manufacture are called CubeSATs, also known as nanosatellites. They can be smaller than most kitchen toasters, but are highly advanced technologically.
The company can quickly manufacture the satellite and adapt them to the buyer’s specific needs.
“There is no better place I can think of if you have $300 million to invest than right here,” Terran Orbital Chairman and CEO Marc Bell said.
DeSantis definitely would agree.
The biggest winner — Desmond Meade: Meade gained notice as the driving force behind the push to restore voting rights for felons in Florida. In recognition of his tireless advocacy work, he was named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow.
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation of Chicago award goes to “extraordinarily talented and creative individuals” throughout the country who show “promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments.”
The honor comes with a no-strings-attached $625,000 “genius grant.”
Meade’s personal story is one of redemption and perseverance. While in the Army, Meade became addicted to cocaine, leading to a crime spree.
The Army dishonorably discharged him, and Meade spent time in prison. After his release from prison in 2005, Meade checked himself into rehab and headed down the road to recovery, eventually earning a law degree.
He was the driving force behind the push for Amendment 4 in 2018, which restored the right to vote for former felons in Florida. Voters approved the measure by nearly 65%.
“This is huge,” said Meade, the founder, president, and executive director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.
He said he would use the grant money to pay off loans for law school and advance the cause of voting rights.
Dishonorable mention — Frank Pichel: He wants to be the next Mayor of Miami, but his campaign just had a little (OK, big) hiccup.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office arrested Pichel Friday on a felony charge of impersonating a police officer. Pichel spent a couple of hours in the county jail before posting a $5,000 bond.
The Miami Herald reported that Pichel is accused of flashing a badge and claiming to be a Monroe County deputy while sitting in a BMW in front of a house in Key Largo on May 30.
An off-duty Miami-Dade police officer, visiting a friend in the neighborhood, asked Pichel what he was doing there.
Pichel, the arrest warrant said, “produced a gold badge and identified himself as a Monroe County Police Officer.”
The Miami-Dade officer ran the license plate and turned the information over to Monroe police.
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser — John Rutherford: The Republican U.S. Representative from Jacksonville is under a microscope for reportedly violating the STOCK Act.
The STOCK Act requires sellers to report individual stock trades between $1,001 and $15,000 to the House clerk’s office within a month of the transaction.
Rutherford made five such trades in October 2020 but didn’t file a report until February, The Business Insider first reported.
Rutherford spokesperson Alex Lanfranconi told Insider the filing was late, but the Congressman didn’t receive a $200 fine.
“Any late periodic transaction reports have been submitted in full and accepted by the House without a fine,” Lanfranconi said.
The moral of the story: You gotta do the paperwork.
The biggest loser — Marco Rubio: Florida’s senior U.S. Senator reminded us again last week of his penchant for placing his foot squarely in his mouth.
Start with Rubio’s take on President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending plan to address multiple national needs.
“The $3.5 trillion Biden plan isn’t socialism, it’s marxism,” Rubio tweeted.
The New York Times’ Paul Krugman replied, “Ah yes, remember that stirring line in The Communist Manifesto: ‘Workers of the world, unite to spend 1.2% of GDP on popular programs over the next decade!'”
Connecticut U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted, “According to Republicans, everything Democrats do is socialism or Marxism. When I get a turkey sandwich for lunch today, it’s socialism.”
Marxism is considered a social, political, and economic philosophy. The application of that philosophy is communism, under which the state controls most property and economic resources.
Biden’s spending plan is neither of those things.
He proposes offering more guaranteed public education to fight inequality and subsidized child care and paid leave to help more women in the workforce. It would expand Medicare and put more money into fighting climate change.
Also, it addresses the nation’s crippling infrastructure needs.
Rubio should, and probably does, know all this. But, dang, invoking Karl Marx will scare the bejeebers out of the GOP base, so it’s all good.
Rubio also mocked an advisory from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention for using a gender-neutral term in a message about COVID-19 vaccinations.
“COVID-19 Vaccination for Pregnant People to Prevent Serious Illness, Deaths, and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes from COVID-19,” the agency said.
“‘Pregnant people’?” he wrote. “If the @CDC ever discovers a pregnant man, I assure you his vaccination status will not be the main thing he should be worried about.”
Given the way Rubio has often mocked transgender people, the Twitterverse was not kind.
“There are people who have a uterus but identify as male. There are literally people right now who identify and look like men who are pregnant. Educate yourself and then resign,” one person wrote.
Another responded: “This is the message you choose to run with, not the fact that they want pregnant people to get vaccinated?”
There also was this cryptic reply.
“How about worry about the growing body count in your state instead of picking apart the wording in the CDC guidelines?”