LEE COUNTY, Fla. — A call to put more cash in your pockets. If passed, Amendment 2 would raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15/hour by 2026.
The state is lagging behind several states when it comes to minimum wage. California’s is $13/hour. Arizona pays at least $12/hour, and New York is just below that at $11.80 an hour. The sunshine state’s sits at $8.56.
When you factor in cost of living in other places, it makes sense that they have higher rates. Tthat’s still more than the $7.25 federal rate that 21 states abide by, but Florida for a Fair Wage says even in this state, it’s not a livable wage.
Florida Gulf Coast University Finance Professor Tom Smythe says it’ll take money out of employers pockets.
“Depending on what competition looks like, it could drive some firms out of business,” he said.
He added it could also cut businesses’ profits, and trickle down to the consumer. Lee County NAACP President and business owner James Muwakkil says that’s a price he’s willing to pay.
“[It’s] very, very important that we share wealth with those in need,” said Muwakkil.
He pays his employees between $10.50 and $20 an hour. Smythe shared the minimum wage increase could lead to inflation, along with layoffs as employers may not be able to afford to pay all of their workers the new minimum wage.
“It’s at that point that that increase in wage that seems like a benefit, actually may not be a benefit,” said Smythe.
He says many of the service workers earning the state’s lowest income should be high school students and retired people.
“Fundamentally, most minimum wage jobs were never created nor intended to be careers,” he said.
Muwakkil says in theory that’s true, but that’s not the reality for most Americans.
“What you’re seeing in real life is adults with families working on any job that they can get,” said Muwakkil.
Agreeing the minimum wage where it stands now isn’t enough to get by, Smythe suggests another solution.
“I really think our efforts would be much better placed at training and education for people to be able to increase their skillset to be able to demand a higher wage,” he said.
Muwakkil agrees, there should be more trade opportunities, but he says that should be in addition to pay increase. If passed, the state’s minimum wage will jump to $10 an hour by September 2021.