Home Business Backers of Florida’s adopted minimum wage measure brace for legal, legislative challenges

Backers of Florida’s adopted minimum wage measure brace for legal, legislative challenges

Kinoy Miller prepares food at the Love Life Cafe on Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami. Lynne Sladky / AP

Florida For A Fair Wage Chairperson John Morgan said Amendment 2, which will raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, will be his last citizen-initiative campaign, but he stands ready to defend it in court.

“The good news is we have a law firm and lots of lawyers, and I would love to take this in front of a jury,” he said.

The state constitutional amendment increases Florida’s $8.56 an hour minimum wage to $10 an hour next September and then $1 an hour more each year until it hits $15 an hour in 2026.

Amendment 2 received 60.8% of the vote, narrowly securing the 60% majority required to amend the state’s constitution. With its passage, Florida becomes the eighth state to adopt a $15 minimum wage.

“[Tuesday] night, the working poor in Florida won in a very, very big way,” Morgan said. “[Tuesday] night, the people of Florida showed their good hearts and compassion.”

Morgan, who also spearheaded the measure that legalized medical marijuana in 2016 and boosted 2018’s constitutional amendment that restored most felons’ right to vote, described the initiative as a moral matter, not a political issue.

“If you’ve had good fortune and good luck, you are required to share that good fortune and good luck. In this country, there is no greater issue than income inequality,” Morgan tweeted. “Nobody’s going to lose their job.”

The trial attorney and his Orlando-based Morgan & Morgan firm and the SEIU Florida labor union contributed nearly all of the $6 million in contributions to support the measure.

“I feel like David versus Goliath in my battle here for this amendment,” he said. “All the money and all the time was well worth it last night.”

Amendment 2 was opposed by Save Florida Jobs and Amendment 2 Hurts, committees created by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA), Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), Americans for Prosperity and other Republican and conservative groups.

“Thousands of businesses” in the state will suffer because of Amendment 2, FRLA President and CEO Carol Dover said.

“Given the devastating impacts COVID-19 has already had on Florida’s economy, we are extremely worried about the job losses and business closures that will accompany this mandate,” Dover said. “We have seen too many places across the country that have implemented this wage hike, only to see workers who were promised more money instead, lose their jobs altogether.”

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said an October analysis showed 20 percent of small businesses may close next year.

“Throw it on,” Herrle said, “we’ll see if this breaks the camel’s back.”

Morgan criticized Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, Florida’s only statewide-elected Democrat and a candidate for the party’s 2022 gubernatorial nod, for her “weak” and “tepid” support.

“If you’re a Democrat in America and you’re on the fence about a living wage, you need to join the other party,” Morgan said. “To me, Nikki Fried has disqualified herself from any future or statewide office in the Democratic Party, and I’m sorry to say that because I really thought she had a bright future.”

With Republicans firmly in control of both state legislative chambers, Amendment 2 proponents warily expect GOP lawmakers to introduce enacting legislation meddling with the measure.

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