Minimum wage will increase in January

As the new year quickly approaches, workers in Florida who are paid minimum wage can anticipate an increase in their hourly wages effective Jan. 1.

The Agency for Workforce Innovation recently announced that all employers would be required to increase their minimum wage employees’ pay rate to $6.67, which is a $.20 increase from the current minimum wage.

Although the current federal minimum wage is $5.15, each state has the liberty to establish its own statewide minimum wage. However, this trend is “still relatively new,” said Warren May, the AWI spokesman.

May said the Florida minimum wage was established in 2002 in the constitutional amendment. “It called for an automatic annual increase after it went into effect in May 2005,” he said.

According to an AWI press release, “the Agency for Workforce Innovation is to perform an annual calculation to establish a new minimum wage each year.” The calculation is based off of the consumer price index, which is a representative sample of a market basket of goods and services that the typical consumer will buy. These goods and services include transportation, food, healthcare, clothing and shelter.

May said employers will be required to pay employees, who hold jobs in which a bulk of their salary is provided through tips, no less than $3.02 an hour.

In addition, May said he feels that minimum wage employees deserve an annual pay raise because the jobs they perform are foundational.

“Mainly teens work those jobs so the fact that they’ll have a bit more money for doing it won’t hurt,” May said.

However, many businesses feel that the increase will eventually result in long-term financial and labor problems for their businesses.

“I don’t think the minimum wage should be increased because it’ll make other things, like prices, go up,” said Karl Bailey, manager for a local Burger King.

“I don’t think they’ll go up immediately, but my staff may decrease because you have to make a budget,” Bailey continued.

May also expressed similar thoughts on the potential long-term impact of increased wages.

“It’ll increase (businesses’) labor costs and that’s always a concern, May said. “But in Florida, that’s less of a concern because the Florida market is so strong.

“The only threat businesses might have is they may have to cut back labor five to 10 years from now,” May continued.

Fidele Kyungu, assistant manager of Shoe Time, a local shoe store, said that the increase does not concern him.

“If it’s the law, then it’s the law,” he said. “Personally, for me, it’s OK.”

Some businesses such as McDonald’s say the increase will not affect their labor costs.

“We pay all our employees above minimum wage. We always pay 50 cents to 75 cents above,” said Eugene Lamar, manager for a local McDonald’s. “We lead the pack in fast food. We have the best pay and the most benefits.”

Students agree that minimum wage employees should be paid more wages.

“I think they should increase the wages because it’s a main source of income for a lot of people,” said Amanda Williams, 20, a sophomore English student from Scotch Pains, N.J. “You definitely work hard for minimum wage. Most times it’s in a store standing up, and that can be painful.”

In addition, AWI stated, “Employees who are not paid the minimum wage may bring a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction against the employer or any person violating Florida’s minimum wage law.”

The state attorney general may also bring an enforcement action to enforce the minimum wage. Although AWI fully supports the increase, May reminds people that “minimum wage isn’t a cure for poverty.”