Florida business owners and chamber split over $ 10 minimum wage

Florida’s minimum wage rose Thursday from $ 8.65 an hour to $ 10 – the first step towards a possible minimum wage of $ 15 an hour in 2026. The increase comes from a constitutional amendment passed by more 61% of Floridians in 2020.

Business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association have opposed the measure, but some small business owners support the increase.

“It’s better for our community to have more money in their pockets,” says Leigh Anne Balzekas, co-owner of Disco Dolls, a clothing store, hair salon and art gallery based in the neighborhood of Seminole Heights in Tampa. “If we look at it only from a business perspective, it’s better for our customers. They will be better customers because they will have more disposable income.

Balzekas has six employees on her staff, all of whom pay $ 15 an hour. She says it’s worth the investment to keep good employees. “To train someone and keep talented people, you do it by paying them fairly. “

The National Federation of Independent Businesses opposed the constitutional amendment last year and said today that a recent employment survey of its members showed that 50 percent of small business owners say that they cannot fill the vacancies.

“The increase in starting salary will increase the financial pressure on small businesses struggling to weather the pandemic and could end up hurting workers, as employers are simply trying to cope with fewer workers to offset the overall increase. of labor costs, ”NFIB Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said in a statement. “It remains to be seen whether raising the minimum wage will affect Florida’s labor shortage. Our employment survey found that 91% of small businesses across the country with vacancies had few or no qualified candidates. “

Leigh Anne Balzekas, co-owner of the Disco Dolls, has six employees, all of whom she pays $ 15 an hour. She says it’s worth the investment to keep good employees. (Mitch Perry / Spectrum Bay News 9)

Dozens of fast food workers and other low-income workers staged a rally outside a McDonald’s on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa on Thursday.

In addition to the minimum wage which goes from $ 8.65 to $ 10 an hour today, the peak minimum wage is raised to $ 6.98 an hour. Anthony Sanders is a tip employee who works at Tampa International Airport helping people with disabilities. He says his raise to $ 7 today is nowhere near enough to keep him going.

“Seven dollars an hour?” How can we live on seven dollars an hour? He asked. “Or even 10 (dollars an hour)? It’s not enough. I can’t even afford to pay my bills.

McDonald’s was among several companies that announced they will be raising their employees’ salaries this year, but only at company-owned stores. In fact, McDonalds franchises 95 percent of its restaurants. CNBC reported that the company “encouraged” franchisees to do the same for its approximately 800,000 employees, “causing anger and consternation among some franchise owners.”

Florida’s minimum wage will increase by $ 1 a year until 2026, when it hits $ 15 an hour. It will then be adjusted annually for inflation from September 2027.

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