Florida Legislature introduces increase in minimum wage bill

Florida Sen. Dwight Bullard is one of 11 representatives sponsoring Senate Bill 6 which, if made effective, will increase state minimum wage.

For the third year in a row, Bullard has participated in the Minimum Wage Challenge, in which officials attempt to live on the state’s rate of minimum wage. The challenge directly correlates with SB 6, allowing elected officials to empathize with citizens that live on $17 a day.

Each year Bullard participated in the challenge, he also made attempts to raise wage rates for state workers.

“Our state workers are languishing because the governor refuses to increase their salaries,” Bullard told the Florida Courier.

According to the Florida House of Representatives, SB 6 will prohibit employers to pay employees at a rate less than the state minimum wage. Laborers that will benefit most from this possible change are tip-based employees, such as restaurant servers whose pay rates are below minimum wage.

The bill will also act in “removing the limitation restricting application of the state minimum wage only to individuals entitled to receive the federal minimum wage.”

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity states that the current minimum wage rate remains at $8.05 and will not be able to rise until at least 2017, since Florida’s rate of inflation did not trigger an automatic increase.

In the past, Bullard has unsuccessfully called for wages to be increased to $10.10 per hour. After the refusal of a committee hearing from the Florida House of Representatives, the official is now calling for wages to rise to $15 per hour.

Some Florida A&M University students, like third-year fitness science student, agree that wages should be increased.

“It's not fair to the those that get up everyday and feed their children on a Burger King salary because they don't have the same opportunities as other people do,” Frasier said. “It's also not fair that the people working minimum wage jobs are worked way harder and underpaid.”

Workers across the country have started a string of protests called the Fight for 15, an attempt to increase wages to $15 an hour, and have since begun protests in Miami at the Eulen America headquarters.

These employee-led demonstrations were initiated by the company’s low wages without benefits. Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport Sandra Smith said she wanted the company to hear their cries.

“I want the heads of the company to hear us, listen to the workers’ plight and fix the situation,” Smith told the Miami Herald. “At the end of the day, without workers they wouldn’t have those high profits.”

SB 6 was first introduced in January but will not be effective until January 1, 2017 due to Florida’s rate of inflation.

Many Florida lawmakers participated in the Minimum Wage Challenge, in which they live off of Florida’s minimum wage. Rep. Dave Kerner said it was difficult and it opened his eyes.

"I realized it's not whether I wanted something or not, it's that I could not purchase it," Kerner told the Sun Sentinel. "From an emotional standpoint, it really opened my eyes."