As FL faces potential roadblocks for a $15 state minimum wage, Congress looks to bump federal minimum wage

By: - February 2, 2021 12:31 pm

Workers rally for a $15 minimum wage. Wikimedia Commons photo.

Florida lawmakers are already looking to weaken the $15 state minimum wage plan approved by voters last year, but Congress and the new Biden administration is going in the other direction:

Democratic lawmakers at the federal level filed legislation last week, called the “Raise the Wage Act of 2021,” to gradually increase the current $7.25 federal wage to $15 by 2025, according to a news release from the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor. (In Florida’s plan, the increases would extend to 2026.)

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, of Central Florida, was one of the lawmakers introducing the legislation.

“Congress has not increased the federal minimum wage in more than a decade – the longest stretch since it was first established in 1938,” according to the news release.

In addition, “The Raise the Wage Act fulfills a key pillar of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan; Nearly 32 million Americans would get a rise, a majority of whom are frontline or essential workers.”

The Washington, D.C. based Economic Policy Institute has calculated how much employees could earn if the increase in the federal minimum wage is approved by Congress.

“The average affected worker who works year-round receiving an extra $3,300 a year,” according to the policy institute.

A map and shows the “estimated share and count of workers in each congressional district who would receive wage increases if the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 were enacted into law.”

The annual wage increase per affected worker in 2021 for Florida ranges from $1,000 to $1,300. You can see the data for Florida and other states here.

Not all people and business will be fans of a minimum wage increase, for a variety of reasons. According to the Associated Press: “Some Republicans (in Congress) support exploring an increase but are uneasy with $15 an hour. They warn that such an increase could lead to job losses in an economy that has nearly 10 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic began.”

Meanwhile, the Florida Phoenix writes that a state constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters last year faces push-back by a Senate Republican who wants to prevent felons, young people, and other “hard to hire” people from receiving the $15 minimum wage set to take effect through 2026.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, who represents part of Pinellas County and is the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, recently filed a joint resolution that would allow the Legislature to reduce pay for a variety of “hard-to-hire” employees.

Democratic Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said she has had conversations with Brandes about his proposal.

“I have shown that Sen. Brandes’ proposal is not in the best interest of our state… the Legislature has an obligation to enact it. And anything less than that, is going against the will of the people,” Fried said during a press conference in the state Capitol Tuesday.

As it stands now, Florida’s minimum wage will increase to $10 per hour on Sept. 30. Each Sept. 30 thereafter, it will rise by $1.00 per hour until it reaches $15 per hour on that date in 2026.

From that point forward, future minimum wage increases will be pegged to the inflation rate.

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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 spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.