Three questions for the candidates running for governor: Labor Unions

By: - August 24, 2018 7:00 am
labor union photo

Union leaders have denounced a vote in the Florida House to divert $1 billion in online sales taxes to benefit their employers Credit: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr

Today in the Florida Phoenix, we continue our election series, where we ask three questions of the candidates for Florida governor, who face off in the Aug. 28 primary. Each day we’ll cover a different topic of interest to voters. Today we ask about labor unions.

The Republican candidates — Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis — chose not to participate in the “Three Questions” series. The five Democrats running for governor responded, and we present their answers in alphabetical order.

1. Florida’s minimum wage stands at $8.25. Should it be $15, like some other states and cities? And when could or would that happen? Many Democrats are supportive but Republicans are often quiet about the issue. What is your stance?

Andrew Gillum:

Nearly half of Florida families struggle to make ends meet, with too many people working two or three jobs. I’m proud to be the first candidate for Governor to pledge to see Florida’s minimum wage raised to $15 per hour. It should happen with all due haste. And as Governor, among the Executive Orders within my first 100 days will be one raising the minimum wage for state employees to $15 per hour.

Gwen Graham:

Yes. I will fight for a $15 minimum wage.

Jeff Greene:

We have to get there as soon as possible.

And I’d say probably what I think would be happening…you’d go to $10 or $11 immediately; then you’d go up maybe 75 cents or a buck a year, then you’d get to $15, so within in four or five years you’re at $15 an hour….

I can’t imagine …..I couldn’t live on $15 an hour.

Chris King:

Our state is suffering from a low-wage economy and half of the jobs in Florida pay less than that amount. Anyone who works full-time should not have to live in poverty, but our current wages make that nearly impossible.

We must provide our workers with fair wages while also making Florida a more affordable place to live. At my affordable housing company, in addition to covering our employees’ healthcare costs and giving out annual bonuses to every worker, we pay living wages starting at $15 an hour. While our goal for Florida’s economy should not be to create minimum wage jobs, I support raising Florida’s hourly minimum wage up to $15.

Philip Levine:

As Mayor of Miami Beach, we passed Florida’s first living wage, an ordinance to raise the city of Miami Beach’s minimum wage to $13.31—people just can’t get by on $8.25 per hour. The retail federation and the State sued. But, this was the first of many battles to level the playing field for all Floridians. We had to try, we had to take action—it was the right thing to do.

Florida is a huge and diverse state with a very different cost of living depending on region and metro area—I’m in favor of empowering local governments to set wages that work for their communities. The cost of living in Tallahassee is much different than in Miami Beach.

My administration will work tirelessly to raise Florida’s wages so families can have an opportunity to achieve economic security—the time has come to build a state economy that works for all.

2. With colleges and universities increasingly relying on adjunct staffers, should adjuncts continue to try to unionize and do you support the unionization efforts? Or should college and universities be required to provide higher pay and better working conditions to the part-time staffers?

Andrew Gillum:

No educator, whether a K-12 teacher or a part-time college instructor, should have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet — they have one of the world’s most important jobs, in molding the young minds of our next generation. I fully support efforts of adjunct faculty to unionize, and to see their wages, benefits, and working conditions be commensurate with their task at hand.

Gwen Graham:

I believe all school faculty should have the right to unionize, and as governor I will end the attacks on unions.

Jeff Greene:

Yes, as a matter of fact, my nephew works for the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) in Boston and that was his main project ….because Boston…is a big college town.

It’s hard. These folks are trying to make a living. They’re instructors; they’re not professors. They’re working almost full time and they have no benefits, no nothing. It’s really an abuse I think on these teachers. As a society we need to rethink how we value our teachers.

Chris King:

Organized labor has a long history of raising wages, fighting for workers’ rights and ensuring safe and fair workplaces and workplace policies. As such, it is not up for debate: Florida workers deserve the right to unionize and collectively bargain.

Attempts by the Florida Legislature to push legislation that would decertify unions is a direct attack on Florida’s workers and middle class. I was a vocal opponent of SB1036/HB25 and the Florida Legislature’s attempt to decertify public sector labor unions.

Additionally, making community college and trade schools free to attend would benefit both students and faculty as demand for faculty (and particularly full-time faculty) will increase with more students attending college and taking courses.

Philip Levine:

Over the last few decades higher education has moved toward a two-class system where tenure and tenure track professors earn very high salaries and focus on research nearly to the exclusion of teaching. The lower-class employees are non-tenure earning, and in fact are contingent labor with low wages and little compensation. This arrangement is unfair to students and parents who expect actual professors to teach them, and it is especially unfair to these workers.

The workers are not being treated fairly. They have a right to unionize—all workers deserve to a voice in the workplace and to be able to stick up for themselves by calling for fair treatment and a fair wage. I support these efforts. At the same time, we should limit the use of contingent labor for college and university teachers.

3. As Gov. Rick Scott touts a boost in new businesses and increases in private-sector employees in Florida, what is the reality? Do you think the private-sector employees are getting a living wage? What should be done to ensure employees have good, well-paying jobs.

Andrew Gillum:

Rick Scott’s austerity agenda has attracted plenty of low-paying, low-skill private sector jobs to Florida, while robbing public sector workers of more than $1 billion since 2011. Far too many Floridians are having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet — that’s not a sign of an economy that works for all.

We not only have to raise wages, but we need to build a 21st century economy with good jobs that can’t be outsourced, like those in the renewable energy and technology sectors.

And to prepare Floridians for these high-paying, high-skills jobs, we must invest unprecedented amounts into technical, vocational, SHOP 2.0, and STEM education.

Rick Scott believes the way to bring jobs to Florida is by being a cheap date — I couldn’t disagree more.

Gwen Graham:

When Rick Scott says “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” it means you’re going to have to work three jobs just to get by. We can create good-paying jobs by raising the minimum wage, supporting homegrown businesses and diversifying our economy.

Jeff Greene:

You can’t force a company to pay more wages, yes, minimum wage, but….people making 20 bucks an hour……who have been stagnant for years. They want to get up to, they want to start making $30 an hour. I mean, How do they do that? It’s by having a robust economy.

I lived in California for awhile….Snapchat…hired 200 people at $100,000 a year each. Now why are they going there? Because they have a much better educated population.

In Florida, we haven’t educated our kids…….They spend as little as possible on our children; that’s what (Gov.) Rick Scott’s been doing. When I’m governor, we’re going to start spending money on our kids.

Chris King:

Rick Scott’s “reality” does not match that of many Floridians. Too many Floridians are stuck in low-paying jobs that barely cover the bills, and they don’t feel they have a shot at moving up the ladder. Our top priority must be how to grow the economy and create more jobs that pay well and offer a chance at advancement.

Two out of three new jobs created in the United States are created by small business. So if we’re going to create more — and better — jobs we need a boom in starting and growing small businesses in Florida.

We must give Florida entrepreneurs and small business owners the access to capital and ability to attract investment they need to leverage their innovative ideas and create a robust jobs environment. We must also attract the jobs of the future to Florida and give Florida workers access to the training and skills needed to fill those jobs.

Philip Levine:

The reality is that over half of counties in Florida have lost jobs under Governor Scott’s tenure. He has been leading our state with a vision of low-wage jobs—his limited vision has kept our state economy in the 20th century, when we should be working to be ready for the jobs of the future and make the investments needed to build a 21st century economy.


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Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.