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Minimum-wage workers grateful for a 42-cent boost

In Tampa, Diva Beauty Supply employee Tanesha Neely, 26, a single mother of four, said that the increase is going to be a good thing for her and her kids. Neely’s husband was shot and killed in May while working as a disc jockey in Auburndale.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

In Tampa, Diva Beauty Supply employee Tanesha Neely, 26, a single mother of four, said that the increase is going to be a good thing for her and her kids. Neely’s husband was shot and killed in May while working as a disc jockey in Auburndale.

TAMPA — It's a mere 42 cents.

But in this economy, with layaways a holiday necessity and vacations turning into staycations, the raise in the state's minimum wage today gives a little lift to those earning the least the law allows.

It's a pay increase, from $6.79 to $7.21 an hour, albeit one destined to be absorbed by the reality of bills, debts and rent.

For 40 hours, that's $16.80 more, enough for a small tank of gas.

"There was a whole lot of stuff I wanted to buy during Christmas," said Dee Dee Wilson, 36, who works at the Diva Beauty Supply on 22nd Street near Hills­borough Avenue. "A few extra dollars would help a lot."

Those few extra dollars will go toward rent, she said. Then bills. Then whatever's leftover will go toward her children.

The bump will allow her to "live better," she said, but not much better. She is the sole breadwinner in a house with two children and a husband with lymphoma. She has four bad discs in her back, so she works part time.

She said she needs every cent she can get.

More than anything, the mandated raise allowed the women at the beauty supply store to dream about what they would do with more.

"My kids. Everything. College fund. Everything," said Tanesha Neely, 26, a single mother of four.

Her husband was shot to death in May in Auburndale while working as a disc jockey.

One in 10 Florida workers earns minimum wage, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. That's 890,000 people.

Most employers around the state pay more than minimum wage, saying they can't otherwise keep good workers.

"It just won't work," said Charles Dumphy, owner of Custom Cleaning Service in Seminole, who pays his staff about $10 an hour. "I haven't been at $7 an hour for a long time."

Another mandated pay bump comes July 24, when the federal government pushes minimum wage in Florida to $7.25 an hour.

To Wilson, Neely and their co-workers — who earn a living selling wigs and hair extensions — the raises only camouflage a real need for more livable pay standards.

"I believe minimum wage should be at least $7.50," Wilson said. "The cost of living has gone up so much, we need to survive."

Times staff writer Leonora LaPeter Anton contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

Minimum-wage workers grateful for a 42-cent boost 12/31/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 12:25pm]
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