With economy growing but paychecks flat, groups say next governor must stand with working people or face political peril
With a high-stakes election around the corner, groups representing Florida’s workers — including the Miami Workers Center, the Florida AFL-CIO, New Florida Majority, Organize Florida and the Farmworker Association of Florida, among others — today released a Florida Workers’ Agenda calling on the next governor and the legislature to take bold action to improve jobs, wages, and working conditions for the state’s workers.
While Florida’s economy has been growing under Rick Scott, pay has been flat and living costs have been rising, leaving millions of families just a missed paycheck away from economic crisis. According to the United Way, 45% of Florida households can’t afford basic necessities. Orlando has the lowest median pay of any metropolitan area in the U.S. And in South Florida, poverty-wage jobs and rising housing costs are squeezing families hard.
Weak worker protections are a big part of the problem. Florida’s minimum wage is just $8.25 an hour, and has increased only 90 cents since 2009. And workers who are cheated in their paychecks, injured on the job, or laid off are left stranded. Florida has no state wage enforcement agency. Its unemployment insurance program is the stingiest in the U.S. And its workers comp protections for injured workers have been declared unconstitutionally inadequate by the Florida Supreme Court.
The Democratic gubernatorial candidates are meeting to debate in St. Petersburg on June 9 and in Miramar on June 11. The Republican candidates are debating in Tampa on June 28.
The Florida Workers’ Agenda outlines key reforms that the next governor—or the governor together with the legislature—should take to protect working families. The recommendations include:
- Backing a 2020 ballot initiative to gradually raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour
- Fighting attempts by the legislature to tie the hands of cities and counties from addressing worker needs
- Getting the state back in the business of fighting wage theft by establishing state wage enforcement programs at the Department of Economic Opportunity and attorney general’s office
- Fixing the state’s stingy unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation systems, which no longer provide meaningful safety nets for jobless and injured workers
- Tackling the health and safety threats facing Florida’s workers, especially farmworkers
- Promoting access to jobs for qualified workers with arrest or conviction records by “banning the box” in state hiring
- Defending workers’ right to organize and join unions, and promoting decent pay for public servants like teachers and airport workers
- Protecting immigrant workers
- Fighting for workers’ civil rights and fighting forced arbitration of worker complaints
- Opposing a ballot proposal to require a supermajority vote of the legislature to raise revenue in the future
“All Floridians deserve wages and conditions that reflect the value of their hard work and gives them the financial freedom to achieve their dreams,” said Moné Holder, senior program director for policy, advocacy & research at New Florida Majority (NewFM). “Working class families, especially communities of color that have been systematically kept at the margins, demand fair economic policies and lawmakers who will fight for our basic human rights and support an agenda that protects Florida’s workers.”
“The Florida AFL-CIO supports this worker agenda because it transcends the usual glittering generalities and broad attacks typically seen during elections season. The policies outlined in this agenda provide a framework for Florida’s struggling workers to meaningfully participate in our economy and hold decision makers accountable,” said Rich Templin, director of politics and public policy of the Florida AFL-CIO. Templin continued: “Florida’s workers and our economy deserve an unemployment insurance system that isn’t the worst in the nation, a workers’ compensation system that puts workers and employers over insurance profits, and local governments that are empowered to do what’s needed in their communities without the burdens of legislative preemption. The policy solutions in this agenda are vital for our state’s future and must be a part of the public discourse during this pivotal election season.”
“When workers in Florida don’t get paid or are mistreated, today they have nowhere to turn. Disproportionately affected are low-wage earning women of color, many of whom are the main breadwinners for their families,” said Marcia Olivo, executive director of the Miami Workers Center. “We need leadership that recognizes that fair pay and a safe workplace are essential to helping Florida’s families succeed and growing the state’s economic future. And nowhere is that leadership need more than in the governor’s office.”
“Workers are on the front lines of serving our communities’ needs every single day. They need to be the priority to ensure a thriving state with healthy families. It’s far past time elected officials stand with women and families and deliver for those making Florida work,” said Debbie Soto, board president of Organize Florida.
“Farmworkers do the essential work of feeding us. They endure sweltering heat, biting insects, exposure to toxic agricultural chemicals, and dangers from accidents with unsafe farm equipment and hazardous workplace conditions, all in order to provide us cheap, affordable food in our grocery stores. For the work they do, they deserve decent, livable wages; strong health and safety protections; and freedom from harassment, abuse, threats and retaliation. Their lives and our food depend upon it,” said Tirso Moreno, general coordinator of the Farmworker Association of Florida.
“As an organization that defends the rights of low-wage and immigrant workers, Community Justice Project is in full support of this important agenda. We know all too well that workers in our communities are dealing with low wages, widespread wage theft, unjust work conditions, and continuous attacks on their right to organize. We need and deserve an economy that works for all of us,” said Oscar Londoño, Skadden Fellow & attorney with the Community Justice Project.
“From wage enforcement to unemployment insurance to workers comp, Florida’s protections for workers are today some of the weakest in all the 50 states,” said Paul Sonn, director of the National Employment Law Project Action Fund. “Florida’s working families deserve a governor who will fight for them by promoting good jobs with fair pay and safe workplaces for the state’s eight million workers.”
The groups releasing the agenda include:
Advocacy Partners Team
Community Justice Project
Farmworker Association of Florida
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Miami Workers Center
National Employment Law Project Action Fund
New Florida Majority
South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice
Elbert Garcia, New Florida Majority, [email protected] or (786) 505-1963
David Fernandez, Florida AFL-CIO, [email protected] or (850) 570-9953
Anna Susman, Berlin-Rosen, [email protected] or (646) 200-5285