Say yes, give Florida a minimum wage raise

State Rep. Cynthia A. Stafford, Florida House District 109 | 2/6/2014, 9 a.m.
In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said, “Say yes. Give America a raise.” I could not ...
Cynthia Stafford

In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said, “Say yes. Give America a raise.” I could not agree more. It is time to give Florida a raise.

I have filed House Bill 385 to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour in Florida. More than 1 million Florida workers would benefit from this increase because they are now earning less than $10.10 per hour. Florida has the second highest number of people making minimum wage after Texas, mostly because of the large number of workers in hotels, restaurants and other service industries.

Hardworking Floridians need and deserve a decent, livable wage. At the current minimum wage, low wage workers, although many employed full time, are still below the poverty line. People are struggling and they shouldn’t have to when they are working full time.

The majority of minimum wage workers are not, as some assume, teenagers. The minimum wage also is not a “training wage” to get employees started in their careers. According to national economists, the average minimum wage worker is between 20 and 35. Many are men and women with families who are head of households who have been at their jobs for years and still are making low wages.

Huge profits by corporations and CEOs compared to the low wage worker salaries who helped to realize those profits demonstrate the income inequality that exists in this state and country. Income inequality is real and it’s growing. Increasing the state minimum wage would help to close the growing income inequality gap. The economy has been growing. Corporation profits and stock values have gone up, but wages have not kept up.

With an increase in minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, workers will be above the poverty level. Workers will have more money to spend and businesses will benefit. It’s a win for the worker, businesses and the economy. When people make more, they spend more, which means demand for more products, goods and services.

HB 385 also applies to tipped workers. According to the Restaurant Opportunities Center, 70 percent of restaurant workers depending on tips are women and that 70 percent of all workers in tip-dependent jobs are receiving some form of welfare. Tips go up and tips go down, every month; but bills stay the same. A raise in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would allow for some stability in the lives of workers.

Florida needs to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 now, not later. It is time, it is right, it is fair. Say yes. Give Florida a raise.