Amendment 2, which would raise minimum wage, narrowly approved by Florida voters
Florida voters narrowly approved Amendment 2 Tuesday, which would incrementally increase the minimum wage of workers in the state from $8.56 per hour to $15 per hour by 2026.
The measure divided workers advocates who said it would raise the pay of thousands employed in the tourist-heavy service economy, while business groups warned the need to pay higher wages would actually reduce jobs.
The amendment barely cleared the threshold of 60% support needed to win approval.
Here's the latest:Florida amendments results
The proposed amendment would raise the state’s minimum wage from its current $8.56 gradually to $15 per hour by September 2026. The first stage would bring the wage to $10 per hour by next September, but most critics focused on the $15 figure – saying it would kill many businesses already struggling in the pandemic.
The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association spearheaded opposition, backed by the state’s Chamber of Commerce.
But Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, whose firm spent $4.6 million to finance the petition campaign that got the measure on the ballot, said the pandemic helped underscore the need for higher wages in Florida, exposing the state’s vast income divide.
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With 770,000 Floridians out of work last month, according to the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity, the minimum wage proposal proved a tangible pocketbook issue before voters.
“Think of it: There’s a new phrase in our vocabulary – essential workers,” Morgan said. “We have a much greater appreciation of essential workers.”
But Carol Dover, president of CEO of the restaurant and lodging association, said that many business owners would be forced to reduce staff if the cost of labor rose.
“Those who think they’re going in voting themselves a pay raise, are most likely voting themselves out of a job,” she said.
Seven other states have approved legislation with a goal of establishing $15 minimum wages, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But Florida would become the first state to set the $15 goal through a constitutional ballot measure.
In a crowded election season, the political fight over minimum wage in Florida took a back seat to the presidential contest. But much of the clash did divide along party lines, with Democrats leaning toward favoring the increase and Republicans and allied organizations opposed.
The Florida Chamber warned, “This will leave fewer jobs for entry-level workers.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the lone statewide elected Democrat in Florida, wrote a newspaper Op-Ed voicing her support for the amendment, but added she worried that the Republican-controlled Legislature would find a way to soften the requirement.
She predicted the measure was “bound to pass, because far too many Floridians are personally impacted by it every single day.”
But, Fried added, “It’s a sad day for democracy when we must come to terms with the fact that we cannot trust our leaders to listen to our voices.”