Voters to have a say on minimum wage

Coins gather demonstrating the struggle many Americans have making ends meet with low paying minimum wage jobs. Photo by Thomeya Jackson

The beginning of this month marked the start for an increase to Florida’s minimum wage. A proposed constitutional change will be on the 2020 ballot, and would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The $15 an hour rate would be a relief to minimum wage employees and students battling debt and struggling to pay for the cost of living.

Florida A&M student Naomi Armstrong believes that the increase would benefit workers and students in Florida.

“For the amount of labor most jobs a college student can acquire that is not career based, I believe any student can benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. Most times students rely on their parents, refund checks, or some kind of side hustle to make it to the next month or even day,” Armstrong said.

If approved, the amendment would set Florida’s minimum wage at $10 an hour by 2021. Each year after the rate would increase $1 until it reaches $15 an hour by 2026. Workers who receive tips as part of their wages will also see a rise in their pay bumping up form $5.44 to $5.54 an hour, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

In 2018 the state’s minimum wage rose from $8.10 to $8.25 an hour. In 2019 it changed from $8.25 to $8.46, according to the U.S. DOL. The current rate for minimum wage is at $8.56 an hour, which is $1.31 more than the federal rate for minimum wage, which sits at $7.25 an hour.

The push to increase the minimum wage is not a concern in other states, too. More than 20 states have seen an increase in their minimum wage this month. Washington D.C. currently has the highest rate at $14 an hour.

Proponents believe that the economy would benefit from the increase. Putting more money in the pockets of minimum wage workers wold them to have more money to spend.

“As for the state of Florida, I believe it will have the same effects. People have families to take care of, student loans, debts, bills, and livelihoods to maintain. A pay raise could significantly impact the quality of life for those who earn minimum-wage and work long hours. I believe it could increase the happiness of the overall population by increasing comfortability,” said Armstrong.

Personal injury attorney and chairman of Florida For A Fair Wage, John Morgan, has spent millions to help push the minimum wage increase. According to Florida for a Fair Wage, the surge would help support workers and their families to have a better “living wage.” The “living wage” is the minimum cost that covers the basic needs of an individual and the needs of their family without government assistance.

While many minimum wage employees look forward to the raise, not everyone is welcoming the change. Opponents believe that the surge would not help the economy but hurt it. Businesses and employers could be forced to raise their prices or cut employees and labor hours.

Polls show that two-thirds of Americans are in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, according to a survey done by the Pew Research Center.

Florida’s current state constitution requires that minimum wage increase with the rate of inflation.
Floridians will vote on the amendment change on November 3, 2020.