Florida Gets It Right

Raising the Minimum Wage

Last month, nearly four hundred thousand Florida workers got a dollar-an-hour raise. It wasn’t because employers had suddenly become more generous. In November, Florida voters had approved a ballot initiative to raise the state’s minimum wage to $6.15 an hour-a dollar higher than the federal level. Furthermore, Florida’s new minimum wage is pegged to inflation. In the future, the state’s lowest-paid workers will receive automatic increases to keep pace with the cost of living.

The initiative’s margin of victory was a whopping 72 to 28 percent (4.95 million votes to 1.96), far larger than George W. Bush’s 300,000 majority over John Kerry in the state. Many middle-class voters who cast their ballot for Bush were also critical in putting the minimum-wage referendum over the top. In fact, the measure won in every county in the state, including conservative counties like Escambia and Santa Rosa in the Florida Panhandle, where military bases and retired military veterans dominate the political culture. In those counties, more than two-thirds of voters supported the wage boost-about the same margin given Bush. This despite opposition to the initiative by Florida governor Jeb Bush, by the state Republican Party (which controls both houses of the legislature), and by Florida’s business community. While most Democratic candidates favored the measure, their vocal support was muted, and Kerry scarcely mentioned it. How,...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Kelly Candaele is president of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees.