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Religious Leaders Back State Employee Raises Because It’s What King Would Do

A group of Tallahassee religious leaders are pushing the legislature to give state employees across the board pay raises. They say it’s what Martin Luther King Junior would do.

It’s been about six years since Florida’s state employees have received across the board pay raises. And that’s too long according to Reverend R.B Holmes of the Bethel Missionary Baptist church—especially since the supreme court has upheld a law requiring state employees to contribute three-percent of their salaries to their retirement.

“Three-percent from state employees checks and no pay raise in the last six years, adds up to an economic nightmare for state employees,” Holmes said.

And Holmes said the state’s employees are hard workers.

“And what we’re not going to tolerate in this season is folks beating up on state employees as if they are welfare recipients. They work and work hard and earn their pay and we must support that and encourage that,” Holmes said.

The governor has already announced he’s asking the legislature to bump teacher pay by about $2,500 in the coming year and he’s said he’d consider merit based pay raises. And while Holmes says both those ideas are a step in the right direction, he said they don’t go far enough. And Joseph Wright, the local president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference agrees. He called merit based raises both discriminatory and subjective.

If you’re not traveling in the right circles, if you’re not having golf with folk, if you’re not eating dinner with folk, then certainly you’re not the one that will be given the increase. And all the state employees ought to be given an increase across the board,” Wright said.

Reverend Holmes said he and other leaders involved in the push are following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Junior.

“We are the voice of the people. That’s so important as we move toward black history month and as we talk about the King anniversary and celebration. Dr. King died for folk to get pay raises. And he died in Memphis Tennessee, April 1968, for sanitation workers,” Holmes said.

Holmes said, especially in Tallahassee, state employees make up an important part of the economy, which helps to support all people living in the region. Although the group leaders said their efforts aim to benefit employees across the state, not just local employees. Meanwhile, some lawmakers are also coming out in support of across the board raises. Representative Michellle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, a Democrat from Tallahassee, has filed a bill that would give all state workers a seven percent raise.  And a bill filed by Representative Dwayne Taylor would give a 2 percent raise. Senator Arthenia Joyner has filed an identical bill.

Reporters at WFSU are state employees and would be affected by an across the board pay raise.

For more news updates, follow Regan McCarthy on twitter @Regan_McCarthy

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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