FLORIDA — The minimum wage will continue to increase in Florida until it hits $15 an hour in 2026.
But now a Florida state senator tells us he’s proposing a bill in the upcoming legislature that would allow companies to pay some workers a sub-minimum wage.
After years of fighting for higher pay, it may not be what many workers want to hear, but State Sen. Jeff Brandes says the concept isn’t as scary as it sounds.
“It’s really an alternative essentially to an unpaid internship," said Brandes.
State Sen. Brandes said a “training wage” would allow companies to temporarily hire workers at a rate lower than the minimum wage so they could learn the skills to do the job.
“It’s really designed to help incentivize businesses to look at applicants that they otherwise wouldn’t consider," said Brandes.
He said that would lead to lower unemployment, and Economics Professor Victor Claar at Florida Gulf Coast University said that’s a good thing, because a higher minimum wage generally does the opposite.
"It’s fairly settled economics that increases in the minimum wage that are higher than whatever the prevailing market wage would be does reduce some work for some people," said Claar.
Currently there is already a federal training wage in place at $4.25 an hour for up to the first 90 days of employment.
But many people are already voicing their opposition to the bill, including the group “Fight for 15 Florida."
In a statement, group representative Alex Harris told us “This legislation is outrageous. It’s extreme and it goes against 6.4 million Florida voters who voted last year to increase the minimum wage to $15/hr."
But Brandes said those voters would still have a say, because this legislation is calling for a constitutional amendment and would need to pass as a voter referendum.
“What we’re actually having to do is go back before the voters and ask them for the flexibility to offer a training wage," said Brandes.
If the bill is approved in the legislature, the training wage will appear on November’s ballot as a voter referendum. If it passes, Brandes said the training wage would likely go into effect in 2024. He said he expects it would be somewhere below $15 but above $10 dollars an hour.