Why 18 Florida lawmakers plan to live on $17 a day

Democrats leading the effort say they hope it will push public support for a minimum wage hike in the state.

Elaine Thompson/AP/File
Server Zachary DeYoung carries a tray of food at an Ivar's restaurant in Seattle on July 27, 2015. After Seattle's new minimum wage law took effect last April 1, Ivar’s Seafood Restaurants announced that it was jacking up its prices by about 21 percent, eliminating tipping as a routine procedure, and immediately paying all its hourly workers a $15 per hour. They began the new pay rate three years earlier than the law required.

Eighteen Florida lawmakers plan to live on $17 a day this week to draw attention to legislators’ efforts to increase the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The daily budget represents a minimum wage worker’s typical take-home pay after taxes, childcare, and housing are deducted from an $8.05-an-hour paycheck – the current minimum wage in the state of Florida, a rate somewhat higher than the federally-mandated minimum of $7.25.

Florida Democrats filed legislation to more than double the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour, a move the Republican-controlled legislature dismisses as a “pass-along cost consumers would have to bear in the form of higher prices on goods and services,” Bay News 9 reports. Sunshine State Republicans also say it could discourage businesses from moving to Florida.

The lawmakers – mostly Democrats – taking part in the publicity stunt will also go grocery shopping with a minimum-wage worker at the start of the week.

The city of Seattle passed an ordinance for a $15 minimum wage by 2021, and in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo recently endorsed a similar measure in his state.

If you work full time, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty – plain and simple,” said Cuomo at a rally at Javits Center on September 10. He was joined by Vice President Joe Biden. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour will add fairness to our economy and bring dignity and respect to 2.2 million people, many of whom have been forced to live in poverty for too long.”

Presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a bill for a federally-mandated $15-an-hour minimum wage in July. In early 2014, President Barack Obama raised the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10, which went into effect at the start of 2015. 

Washington D.C. leads the country on minimum wage at $10.50, which took effect July 1, making it the first locality in the nation to cross the $10 threshold.

Currently, 29 states and the nation's capital have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Five states – Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee – have not adopted a state minimum wage. 

With opposition from the majority Republicans in Florida, the Democrats leading the charge on a minimum wage hike say public support will be critical to the bill's chances during the 2016 legislative session, which begins in January.

Angel Vega, who works the counter at a seafood restaurant in Tallahassee said a "living wage" is what he deserves, in an interview with Bay News 9.

"I feel like that would help a lot of people, you know what I mean, and get their own place and start saving," Mr. Vega said. "It would be much better, especially with the hard work, especially hard labor and all that. That would do pretty good."

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