ST. PETERSBURG — Jeff Roby stood on the third step of City Hall, the lush fronds of a palm tree swaying above his head. He and fellow members of a fledgling movement are pushing for a $15 minimum wage, and they figured this would a good place to start.
"We're not calling on the St. Petersburg City Council, as it said in the Declaration of Independence, to risk their lives, or even their fortunes," said Roby, 66, of Gulfport. "We're not asking them, not right now, to spend any money, meaning our tax money. But we are wondering about their sacred honor."
Four other members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the 15 Now group showed up to the noon news conference. They carried red signs, and toted fact sheets and T-shirts. Two reporters scribbled notes, with not a television camera in sight.
This, members say, is what the beginning of a long fight looks like.
Roby and his fellow activists want the City Council to pass a resolution urging the Legislature to repeal a state law forbidding cities and counties from setting a minimum wage higher than what is mandated by the state. And if that were to happen, the group wants the council to require a citywide $15 minimum wage.
The minimum wage in Florida is $7.93.
The 15 Now organization started in Seattle, where the Seattle City Council in June approved a $15 wage to be phased in over six years. It happened with the help of a newly elected Socialist council member and a supportive mayor.
But city councils in Florida can't do that, and a Republican-controlled Legislature is unlikely to change the law anytime soon, said Tampa Bay chapter organizer Christian Brooks, a 25-year-old St. Petersburg resident and shift supervisor at CVS.
The Tampa Bay chapter is the second in Florida; the first is based in Orlando.
The group plans to meet with St. Petersburg council members to make their case and, if necessary, to start a petition in support of the resolution and higher wage here.
Brooks said the goal is to get enough signatures for a statewide $15 wage referendum.
"If there's a lesson we can learn from Seattle, it's that if we build enough of a movement to bring pressure to bear on the Legislature, they will react to that pressure," Brooks said. "It's not like the Seattle City Council passed the $15 an hour minimum wage out of the kindness of their hearts. It's because there was a mass movement."
Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @tmarrerotimes.