Dear Sen. Gardiner,
I am writing to ask…no. I am writing to demand that you support Sen. Dwight Bullard and Sen. Darren Soto in their efforts to raise Florida’s minimum wage to a survival wage of $15 an hour by 2017. We need a $15 an hour minimum wage for our state. We need that wage tied to inflation. We also need that wage tied to housing costs. And we need it now.
The United Way of Florida recently released their Study of Financial Hardship for the state. Instead of using the outdated 1970’s formula to assess the financial state of Florida families, they used a more accurate method. The poverty of today is not the same as the poverty of the 1970’s. In the 1970’s things were still growing at a reasonably fair pace. Now, however, we have prices rising, and wages stagnating. Between 2007 and 2013, housing costs in the state rose nearly 8%; wages only grew 3%.
Yes, our state is raising wages. Yes we have a minimum wage that is above the national requirement. No, that isn’t helping. It’s too little too late. You waited too long. Instead of just fixing a small leak, now you have to replace the entire roof…and probably most of the carpet as well.
45% of Floridians are working low wage jobs. Jobs that don’t even fully provide our most basic needs. The majority of these jobs fuel our roughly $70 billion dollar tourist industries. To be more precise, 61% of Florida jobs fuel tourism. Yet we lose $39.5 billion to subsidize businesses that refuse to pay a living wage. This doesn’t seem like a sound financial decision.
This also means that we can’t just get better jobs because they don’t exist in Florida. They can’t. Most jobs in Florida are industries that cater to tourists and tourism. According to the most recent labor statistics, restaurants and retail stores make up 37.5% of the jobs in Brevard County. They are also the lowest paying jobs in Brevard County. Those fields are projecting double digit growth in the next year. We can’t get “better” jobs when these are the only jobs that exist.
Honestly, we shouldn’t be forced to either. You may not believe it, but most of us in low wage industries actually like the work we do. I hear people saying “That job isn’t meant to be a career.” Well why not? If it is something that I enjoy doing, why can’t I make it my career? Why shouldn’t I make it my career? Who decided that pride in my job should be limited to only a certain set of occupations? Why is it a bad thing that I enjoy a job and have learned to do that job well?
I hear “It’ll kill small business.” And honestly, I don’t care. If the only way your business can succeed is for my family to starve, then you can’t afford to be in business in the first place. Jobs are supposed to keep people off of taxpayer funded safety net programs. These programs are not for companies who take advantage of them in order to avoid paying their own employees.
This should be the same for any business. If a company makes billions in profits, there is no reason for taxpayers to fund their payroll expenses for them. Shouldn’t personal responsibility also extend to businesses using someone else’s money to pay their employees?
As a poor person, every single purchase I make is under constant scrutiny. We can’t own cell phones, get our hair styled, or buy clothes. That purse better be from the dollar store. Our cars better not be too shiny or too new because that would mean we are wasting money. We better be living in the ghetto too, otherwise we are trying to live above our means. We better not have internet or cable TV either. We can’t have a beer. We can’t eat sugar or meat. We better not buy a candy bar. And heaven forbid we buy our kid a cute birthday cake with food stamps! Literally every single thing we do in the run of a day, every single purchase we make, is under a microscope.
Why are we the only ones who get treated this way? Society says I’m a moocher and a freeloader if I have a charity pay my light bill so that I can buy my kids something for Christmas. Yet we consider it perfectly acceptable for a billion dollar company to pass their payroll off to someone else so that their CEO can make millions each year. Why am I the only one in this equation that is considered to be doing something wrong? Why do we question the motives of those who receive benefits, and not the motives of those keeping us on them?
I hear “It’ll increase prices.” That’s easily avoidable, just tie wages to inflation; especially housing. Plus, prices have already gone up. The overall cost of living in Florida has gone up 13%, and still climbing. Wages haven’t matched that growth. This is why it costs Florida taxpayers 39.5 billion in government, charity, and medical care to fund the existence of employers like Walmart and McDonalds. Which means these companies aren’t helping our local economy, they are hurting it.
I hear “The job’s not worth it.” Which is an absolute falsehood. Florida is a tourist based economy. In Florida, not only are these jobs worth it, but they are invaluable. Last year we saw a record breaking 97.3 million visitors. Service, hospitality, and retail sales jobs are more important to Florida than to any other state economy. These jobs drive our economy. Without these jobs, there would be no economy. It is unconscionable for anyone to tell a Florida service, hospitality, or retail sales worker that their job is not worth it.
If you truly believe that these jobs aren’t worth a living wage, then we can always stop doing them.