Florida’s minimum wage rose by 14 cents on Jan. 1, to $7.93 per hour. But two South Florida lawmakers say that doesn't go far enough.
They’ve filed bills to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The wage increase would also apply to workers who earn tips, like restaurant servers currently making $4.91 per hour.
Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, and Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Opa-Locka, say they’re trying to get more people out of poverty.
“Our hope is to really take a proactive step in closing what has been a growing income and equality gap here, not only on the state of Florida, but in the country as a whole,” Bullard said.
He noted that their announcement was being made on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's declaration of a War on Poverty.
“This bill will not only benefit the workers, but it will also benefit the economy because if people are making more, they will spend more,” Stafford said. “So, it’s a win-win for all of us.”
The business community doesn’t see it as a win. Opponents of the idea say the wage increase would mean higher prices and job cuts.
“A minimum wage is a training wage, and it allows the employee to gain job skills while earning that wage,” said Edie Ousley with the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Once the skills are mastered, the employee can work toward promotion and begin making a better living for their family.”
She said it should be up to businesses to determine what they’re able to pay their employees.
“Government shouldn’t tell people who to hire, what to pay them and what benefits to offer,” Ousley said.
The efforts by Florida Democrats are in step with a proposal in Washington. The Fair Minimum Wage Act would boost the federal minimum to $10.10 from the current $7.25. Then, the wage would be tied to inflation, automatically adjusting upward with the cost of living.