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Republican Lawmakers, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Join In Opposition Of Amendment 2, Sponsor Responds

Eight People in Red T-Shirts Lock Arms While Chanting
David McNew
Fight For 15
Striking McDonald's restaurant employees lock arms during nationwide "Fight for $15 Day of Disruption" protests.

This November Florida voters will have a chance to raise the state’s minimum wage. Opponents argue the proposal is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and will harm Florida’s economy, and kill small businesses. Supporters say the plan would help workers and their families earn a living wage.

A proposed constitutional amendment would gradually increase Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. The plan steals a page from Seattle where the city council passed a law that increases the minimum wage to $15 by 2021. Florida Republican Party Chair Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) says that was a bad decision for them.

"We’ve seen it kill jobs, close businesses and expand the income gap. Their streets are covered in poverty, riots, crime and unrest," said Gruters. "Why would we bring their failed policies to the Sunshine State?"

Gruters, who owns a Certified Public Accountant firm, believes the minimum wage should be something left for entry-level workers.

"The minimum wage is for entry-level positions that help people to start off and if they’re learning a skill and good at their trade they’re going to make a lot more much quicker," said Gruters.

But that’s not always the case. Ben Pollara is the Campaign Manager for Florida For A Fair Wage, the group pushing the amendment. He says sometimes entry-level workers are sole providers for their families and making minimum wage or close to it, for them, is just not enough.

"The problem is that people are working full time, or more than full time and aren’t able to support themselves on 40 or 50 or 60 hours a week. Because the minimum wage in Florida is low," said Pollara.

If passed, Florida would be the first state in the nation to raise its minimum wage through a citizens’ initiative. Carol Dover, President of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association thinks that should be left to lawmakers.

"This is why we elect a legislature, is that this issue should go before them. We’ve continued to put issues like this on our constitution and it doesn’t belong there," said Dover.

However, Pollara says the chances of that happening, given recent history, are unlikely.

"The only reason we have a minimum wage in the State of Florida is because voters approved one in 2004 and put it into the constitution," said Pollara. "Prior to that Florida was one of a handful of states that had no minimum wage outside of the federal minimum wage."

Last session Democrats proposed raising the state’s minimum wage, it died without even receiving a hearing. A study looking into the effects of raising the minimum wage also died without a hearing. Recent polls show a majority of Florida voters are in favor of the Amendment.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.