By Kate Rogers | @katerogersnews
At Panther Coffee in Miami, no worker is paid under $10 an hour. In fact, including tips, entry-level employees take home about $15 an hour on average, well above the state's minimum of $8.10 an hour. Husband-wife owners Joel and Leticia Pollock say lower wages just aren't an option if they want to be successful.
"To me minimum wage is offensive," Leticia said. "For our business, it's important that people take home a living wage, because we want the team to feel respected, we want people to stay long-term, and we want to build a culture where they're coming to work and they know that we understand that you can't live with less than that."
But the Pollocks' outlook isn't shared by all on Main Street, where wages are a key concern as the pendulum swings in favor of a higher minimum nationwide. In fact, conservative lobbying group the National Federation of Independent Business finds wages are a top-10 issue for its small-business membership.
Despite the federal minimum remaining stagnant at $7.25 an hour, more than half the states across the country now have wage floors above the federal minimum, and big cities from Seattle to Los Angeles and New York City also have taken matters into their own hands to raise pay for low-wage workers, much like the Pollocks have at their own small businesses in Miami and Miami Beach.
Miami Beach is at the center of an ongoing battle of its own over raising the minimum wage. Earlier this year, a judge struck down a local ordinance that was set to hike the city's minimum to $10.31 in January 2018, eventually hitting $13.31 by 2021. Oral arguments begin in appeals court in October. Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine believes the case could reach the Florida Supreme Court but that ultimately the higher wage will prevail.
"I believe its necessary, and our entire commission as well as our business community felt it was necessary, because we felt that we need to make sure that our workers in our city get properly paid," Levine said. "We all know that no one can live on $8.10 an hour. So the question is, How do you live? The government is going to help you — they are funding you with subsidized programs, welfare programs and social programs. So, basically, the taxpayers are subsidizing the cost of businesses."
The Florida Retail Federation, which was one of the business groups that took on the minimum-wage ordinance in Miami Beach, said the hike stands to negatively impact small companies and future business in the city.
"If the minimum-wage proposal was approved, you'd see a number of other cities and municipalities follow along with that — then you're looking at an impact on local businesses in Florida that would be devastating," said James Miller, spokesman for the Florida Retail Federation. "You're looking at lost jobs, higher prices, millions of Florida families impacted by this one decision."
For some entrepreneurs, raising the minimum wage isn't so clear-cut, and it means making tough business decisions. At Daily Creative Food in Miami Beach, entry-level positions begin at $10 an hour in order to attract and retain talent, according to owner Adam Meltzer. But the business has 85 employees, and Meltzer believes mandated higher wages should be reserved for more skilled workers.
"If we were to increase the minimum wage to above $13, $14 or $15 an hour, we might run into some problems where we would actually have to decrease the amount of hours our minimum-wage employees work," Meltzer said. "We might also have to raise menu prices, which would affect customers and possibly affect the overall business."
If the state or local minimum were to go above $13, Meltzer said he may try to have a manager perform some of the duties that a minimum-wage worker would typically perform to decrease the number of minimum-wage workers on staff. But he also sees the potential positive in higher pay.
"We might notice an increase in productivity, in employee morale," he said. "But it might also affect us in a negative way. ... We'd have to be a bit more creative with our staffing needs."
Panther Coffee's Leticia also recognizes the challenges small-business owners face when it comes to raising pay but said ultimately for her business, it's necessary.
"Business owners have a lot of debt, a lot of risk, and in the end we are the ones that have to pay the bills, the bank or investors," she said. "But we also need to share what comes in so that everyone benefits from the work we are doing together." read more
A Miami Beach city attorney discusses the reasons behind the mayor's plan to raise the minimum wage.
“We don’t support any mandates in which local governments are dictating what private businesses should be paying their employees, as it should be up to each individual employer to determine what is fair and also helps their business remain competitive,” said Randy Miller, CEO and president of the Florida Retail Federation.
The state minimum wage is $8.05 an hour and will go up to $8.10 an hour on Jan 1. Under the new ordinance, the citywide minimum will be set at $10.31 on Jan. 1, 2018, and increase a dollar a year until 2021.
The change was praised by labor unions while business groups said the increase could kill jobs.
“This unconstitutional mandate sets a dangerous precedent, threatens the strength of Florida’s businesses and increases costs to consumers,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “This is a critical issue that must be addressed to protect all of Florida’s employers, including the $89.1 billion hospitality industry which employs 1.2 million dedicated workers in the Sunshine State.”
Robert Rosenwald, first assistant city attorney and the person who drafted the legislation, said a 2004 Florida constitutional amendment that set a state minimum wage higher than the federal rate gives local governments the ability to set their own minimums.
“Seventy-one percent of Floridians voted in 2004 to amend the state constitution to raise the minimum wage and to allow cities to go higher if fairness requires,” he said. “Big business now asks the court to ignore the clear will of 5 million voters and reduce the wages earned by our most vulnerable workers. All less than two weeks before Christmas. They should be ashamed. We will fight hard and we expect to win in court.”
The ordinance was first proposed by Mayor Philip Levine in May. On Wednesday, he was disappointed to hear of the suit.
“It’s disappointing that Tallahassee special interest groups have taken this holiday season to file suit to prevent Floridians from earning a just wage in Florida.” he said. “I will toil every day, legislatively and legally, to see that Miami Beach and the state of Florida reflect the good, fair and equitable principles that millions of Floridians voted to enshrine into law when they voted to say that every worker in our state should be able to make an honest living.” read more
A living wage ordinance passed by the city of Miami Beach in June drew a legal challenge Wednesday from three of Florida's leading business organizations, who say the measure, which requires a $13.31 minimum rate citywide by 2021, directly violates state law.
The lawsuit, filed in state court in Miami by the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, along with three businesses that run a supermarket and two 7-Eleven convenience stores in Miami Beach, seeks a declaratory... read more
For Immediate Release: December 14, 2016
Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce file suit stating city ordinance is in violation of state statute and will significantly burden businesses
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Three leading Florida business organizations filed suit today against the City of Miami Beach regarding a recently passed city ordinance to raise the minimum wage to $10.31/hour starting January 1, 2018, and increase it $1.00/year until it reaches $13.31 in 2021. The Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and Florida Chamber of Commerce filed the suit which states that the ordinance disregards a state statute which establishes the State of Florida will determine one consistent minimum wage for the entire state. This state statute allows for local government entities to adopt ordinances to exceed this wage for those working or contracting with the local government. The suit was filed by Charles Caulkins of the South Florida law firm Fisher Philips LLC.
“We don’t support any mandates in which local governments are dictating what private businesses should be paying their employees, as it should be up to each individual employer to determine what is fair and also helps their business remain competitive,” said FRF President/CEO Randy Miller. “This increase will certainly lead to lost jobs, as small businesses, which make up 80 percent of businesses in Florida, only have a finite amount of money to spend on salaries, and being forced to pay certain employees more, means cutting the salaries or jobs of others, or potentially closing the business altogether.”
“The Florida Chamber of Commerce is focused on creating good jobs and opportunity for everyone and, unfortunately, a patchwork of government wage regulations and mandates hurts job seekers, small businesses, and Florida," said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
“This unconstitutional mandate sets a dangerous precedent, threatens the strength of Florida’s businesses and increases costs to consumers. This is a critical issue that must be addressed to protect all of Florida’s employers, including the $89.1 billion hospitality industry which employs 1.2 million dedicated workers in the Sunshine State. The government shouldn’t dictate the relationship between an employer and employee. If this ordinance is upheld it could have severe, unintended consequences for employers and employees across the Sunshine State, and across the nation,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
ABOUT THE FLORIDA RETAIL FEDERATION
Founded in 1937, the Florida Retail Federation is the statewide trade association representing retailers -- the businesses that sell directly to consumers. Florida retailers provide three out of every four jobs in the state, pay more than $49 billion in wages annually, and collect and remit more than $20 billion in sales taxes for Florida’s government each year. In fact, more than three out of four of Florida’s budget dollars come from retail-related activity.
ABOUT THE FLORIDA CHAMBER
Established in 1916 as Florida’s first statewide business advocacy organization, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as crucial to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FLChamber.com for more information. 136 South Bronough Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301.
ABOUT THE FLORIDA RESTAURANT & LODGING ASSOCIATION
FRLA is Florida’s premier non-profit hospitality industry trade association. Our mission is to ‘Protect, Educate and Promote’ Florida’s $89.1 billion hospitality industry which represents 23% of Florida’s economy and more than 1.2 million employees - making it the state’s number one industry. We offer regulatory compliance and food safety training needs (RCS and SafeStaff®); industry developed career-building high school programs (FRLAEF); sponsor the only event in Florida exclusively serving the restaurant and foodservice industry (FR&L Show, September 10-12, 2017 in Orlando); and we safeguard the needs of the hospitality industry by providing legislative advocacy. We represent and serve more than 10,000 independent and household name members, suppliers, and theme parks. For more information, go to www.FRLA.org and find us on Twitter @FRLAnews, Facebook and YouTube.