If Orlando-based lawyer John Morgan has his way, millions of Florida workers could be getting a raise.
This week, Morgan announced he had collected enough signatures to put a $15 minimum wage proposal on the ballot for the 2020 election.
“In life, I think that you’re supposed to do the most, for the most with the least,” Morgan, who has amassed a considerable net worth as founder of the law firm Morgan and Morgan, said in an interview.
Florida’s minimum wage is currently indexed to inflation, and the increases only began in 2004, when the federal minimum wage was just $5.15 an hour, already below the cost of inflation.
In other words, if the state had made an initial adjustment for inflation when the increases kicked in, the state’s current minimum wage would be more than $9.50 an hour. It is currently $8.46 an hour; the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
That’s Morgan’s plan. He would like to phase in the $15 by first increasing the state minimum to $10, then move up $1 every year.
“I did it in a way that would be business-friendly, and not just throw them in the deep end,” he said.
Even so, Morgan anticipates many questions being raised, including what the effect will be on small businesses and consumers.
“You’ve got people who think that their hamburgers are going to cost more,” he said. “People aren’t thinking about other people, they’re thinking about themselves — ’If this happens my Big Mac is going to cost 50 cents more. That’s disappointing — wouldn’t you pay 50 cents more for everyone to have a $15 minimum wage? Wouldn’t you do that? You’d hope so.”
Miami’s local Service Employees International Union chapter, 32BJ, is backing Morgan’s campaign. It estimates there are already 200,000 Florida workers earning exactly the minimum wage, and millions more making less than $15. Morgan’s campaign, Florida for a Fair Wage, says the state has already verified 363,157 petitions out of the more than 1 million it says it has collected; 766,200 are needed to make it on to the ballot.
Monique Ford, 22, is one of them.. A Miami-Dade resident currently without a fixed address, said she is incapable of surviving on the current $8.46 she makes as a janitor. She is expecting a child later this year. SEIU is working with Ford to organize her workplace.
“Right now for me and my co-workers, most of us cannot afford healthcare insurance for ourselves or our families,” she said. “We can’t afford a sick day off. So to be able to cover this or any other bill you owe, that would really help.”
This is Morgan’s second ballot initiative; in 2016, he successfully rallied Florida voters to legalize medical marijuana, after it failed in 2014.
One reason he likes this initiative’s chances, he said, is that it’s a presidential election year.
“Turnout helps me,” he said.
More than anything, he’s taking a broad view of what he’d like to accomplish as he nears the end of his career.
“I’m old,” the 63-year-old said. “You’ve got to be real — I work with lifespan tables.”
-- This story was written by Rob Wile