Saturday, November 18, 2017
Business

Democrats call attention to raising Florida's minimum wage, but it's a losing battle

RECOMMENDED READING


TALLAHASSEE

They held protests and press conferences. Several even spent the week living on $7.93 an hour. But try as they might, Democratic lawmakers could not spark a discussion about increasing the state minimum wage. "It's a debate that's being had everywhere but Florida," said Sen. Dwight Bullard, the Miami-Dade Democrat leading the charge. "Republicans are blocking it." The GOP had its reasons for not engaging on the issue, some members said, including a belief that increasing the minimum wage would slow job growth.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he was not surprised to see Democrats turn to the media.

"This is the magical time in session when people who cannot pass their bills resort to political stunts," Weatherford said. "It's a sad but unfortunately predictable pastime for the last three weeks of session."

The actions taken in Florida last week were part of a broader campaign by Democrats nationwide.

President Barack Obama is pushing to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour and promoting laws that address the income disparity between men and women.

Some statehouses are following his lead. Recently, lawmakers in Connecticut and Maryland decided to gradually increase their minimum wage to $10.10.

In Florida, Bullard and Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, have filed bills (SB 456/HB 385) that would hike the state minimum wage from $7.93 to $10.10 an hour.

Separately, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, are proposing a measure (SB 206/HB 163) that would help end the pay disparity between men and women.

Neither has gotten any traction in the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Sen. Nancy Detert, the Venice Republican who chairs the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, said she had not scheduled the minimum wage bill for a hearing because "the Senate only hears bills that are moving in the House."

"Why don't you go down to the House and ask why it isn't moving there?" she told a reporter last week.

Rep. Carlos Trujillo, who chairs the House Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee, said he decided not to hear the bill because he does not agree with the policy.

"The premise that raising the minimum wage raises the quality of life is flawed," said Trujillo, R-Miami, noting that increasing wages would drive up prices. "What we have to focus on is ending generational poverty."

In Florida, earning the minimum wage means earning about $16,000 a year.

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 73 percent of Florida voters support increasing the minimum wage. Advocates like the National Employment Law Project say the move would offer much-needed support to working families and spur economic growth. But business groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce aren't sold.

"Mandating hiring wages is bad economic policy that can lead to fewer jobs for entry-level workers looking to gain job skills," said Edie Ousley, vice president of Public Affairs.

Robert F. Sanchez of the James Madison Institute said the move could ultimately lead to wage inflation.

"There are a lot of employees who are already making $10 an hour," Sanchez said. "When you bump up the minimum wage, you have to bump up their wages, too."

The Democrats have too few members to force legislation in Florida. So last week, they set their sights on the next best thing: media attention.

On Tuesday, the Miami-Dade Democratic Party protested outside of Trujillo's district office.

"The Republican lawmakers who refuse to take action on the bill need to see the real consequences of their failure to lead — Floridians who work full time, year-round and yet still live in poverty on a minimum wage salary," said Miami-Dade Democratic Party Chair Annette Taddeo-Goldstein.

Joyner and Cruz held a press conference on their equal-pay bill later in the day.

"By refusing to act, Republicans are telling their daughters that no matter how much they work, they are not worth as much as their brothers," Cruz said.

Bullard took a different approach to promoting his minimum wage bill: He challenged his fellow lawmakers to spend a week living on minimum wage.

Nine Democrats accepted: Stafford and Reps. Karen Castor Dentel, Shevrin Jones, Kionne McGhee, Bobby Powell, Ricardo Rangel, José Javier Rodríguez, Victor Torres Jr. and Clovis Watson.

A group of those lawmakers went grocery shopping together Wednesday at a Tallahassee Publix. The point of the trip: to see how much nourishing food they could buy for $25.

With TV cameras in tow, McGhee bought milk, orange juice, eggs, chicken, bananas and a box of Pop-Tarts.

"Without milk, you're not going to have strong bones," McGhee said, surveying the mostly nourishing items in his basket. "You need milk."

The lawmakers were joined by 23-year-old Oscar Rivera, a Miami Dade College student and part-time fast-food restaurant cook who traveled to Tallahassee with the health workers' union. Rivera, who earns the minimum wage, urged Democrats to keep up the fight.

"We need an increase in our salary," he said. "We need a change. We need a little bit more to buy food and pay bills."

Times/Herald staff writer Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Kathleen McGrory can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

As economists predicted, the tough hit that Florida jobs took from Hurricane Irma was not long-lived. The state added 125,300 jobs in October, almost breaking even from the 127,400 jobs it lost in September. According to state figures released Friday...
Published: 11/17/17
Apple will postpone release of  HomePod

Apple will postpone release of HomePod

The Washington PostApple said Friday that it’s pushing back its plans for a Siri-powered smart speaker until sometime early next year.The HomePod speaker was announced in June, with an initial launch date set for December. Apple said that its smart s...
Published: 11/17/17
HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

ST. PETERSBURG — Good Housekeeping and St. Petersburg-based HSN have chosen five finalists for their entrepreneur competition. The partners are searching for a novel item to promote as endorsed by the Good Housekeeping Seal, denoting reliability and ...
Published: 11/17/17
Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

How are we doing?That was the Big Question posed more than once this past week in Tampa Bay. First, the Tampa Bay Partnership and USF debuted in-depth and new ways to measure Tampa Bay across a wide range of indicators to gauge whether we are gaining...
Published: 11/17/17
Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

The main course was expected: a pair of sleek silver Tesla semi-trucks that get 500 miles per charge, go from zero to 60 mph in five seconds and — if the hype is to be believed — promise to single-handedly transform the commercial trucking industry.B...
Published: 11/17/17
We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

What one thing could be added to the Tampa Bay startup community to help it grow and prosper?The Tampa Bay Times reached out to these leading area entrepreneurs and startup experts for answers.RELATED COVERAGE: Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? D...
Published: 11/17/17
Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Plotting a shopping strategy for the holiday weekend? Here’s a look at holiday store opening hours for some major retailers:Thanksgiving8 a.m.: Kmart1 p.m.: JCPenney4 p.m.: GameStop5 p.m.: Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys "R" Us, Kohl’s6 p.m.: Old Navy, Target...
Published: 11/17/17
Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

TAMPA — The two biggest trends in the automotive space are ones you’ve likely heard of: electric vehicles and autonomous cars. Both will feature prominently at the Tampa Bay International Auto Show today through Sunday. The event at the ...
Published: 11/17/17
Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

LARGO — Driving down West Bay Drive, you may notice some changes to downtown Largo.A new 29-unit apartment complex on Ridge Road stands finished and ready for residents. South of the complex, land that was formerly home to a community of rundown cott...
Published: 11/17/17
Want to travel solo? Local enthusiasts share stories, tips for holidays trips

Want to travel solo? Local enthusiasts share stories, tips for holidays trips

Stephanie Maisonneuve visited the walled city of Cartagena, a port city off the Caribbean coast of Colombia. She rode horseback down the city’s cobbled streets clucking past flower-filled balconies and massive, wooden arched doors. The travel enthusi...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17