A proposed initiative to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026 is gathering momentum and is almost certain to be on the state’s ballot when voters go to the polls to choose a president in 2020.
The political committee Florida for a Fair Wage announced last week that the campaign has finished collecting the signatures it needs for ballot consideration and should reach all the requirements before the February deadline.
The SPLC Action Fund also announced
it was joining the campaign to help pass the initiative.
If the constitutional amendment is approved by voters, the state’s minimum wage would increase to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021, and rise $1 each year until it hits $15 in 2026. After that, it would increase every year at the rate of inflation.
The bump in pay for low-wage workers would set Florida far apart from other Southern states. Florida ($8.46) and Arkansas ($9.25) are the only states in the South that have adopted a minimum wage higher than the federal version of $7.25.
Currently, Washington, D.C., has the highest minimum wage in the country, at $14. Three states – Massachusetts, Washington and California – are second at $12.
An increase is already popular among Florida voters. A Quinnipiac University poll
in June found that 76 percent of voters support an increase from the current $8.46 an hour.
That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Most of the existing research on minimum wage increases points to favorable results for low-wage employees
, as well as improved work productivity
and the overall well-being of workers.
... a growing body of research suggests
that minimum wage hikes do not necessarily lead to the loss of low-wage jobs, as opponents in Florida and elsewhere invariably claim.
One recent study
analyzed 138 state-level minimum wage increases over roughly four decades and found that the overall number of low-wage jobs remained essentially unchanged years after increases of varying degrees....
In 2004, Florida voters approved a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 – the federal floor at the time – to $7.40 by 2006 and then annually each year based on the consumer price index. Afterward, one report
found strong job growth, as opposed to the predictions of job losses by opponents....
The increase would herald a historic shift in labor policy in the South.
According to EPI’s Minimum Wage Tracker, only seven states have no minimum wage law at all or a wage set below the federal minimum. Six of those are in the South. The federal minimum wage still applies in those states.
“That there’s likely going to be a very ambitious minimum wage proposal on the ballot is a tremendous development in terms of labor policy in the Southeast,” said Zipperer. “For many decades, labor policy or the lack of labor regulation in the South has been suppressing wages, and oftentimes suppressing wages for people of color, or in ways that disproportionately affect people of color, like the minimum wage. I think it would be a tremendous turn for the better if we saw that change.”