Florida’s minimum wage hike - Changing the landscape

Staff Reports

Orlando attorney and businessman John Morgan spent nearly $6 million of his own money and pretty much, single-handedly – is responsible for getting Amendment 2 on the ballot in Florida. Some are calling it ‘Morgan’s Amendment.’ It narrowly squeaked by with 60.82 percent of the vote (amendments in Florida require a minimum of 60 percent to pass).

The first question most people ask is why would one man spend that much of his own money to raise the minimum wage? What’s in it for him? Does he secretly want to see the financial collapse of Florida’s infrastructure as those opposed would suggest? The federal minimum wage is only $7.25 per hour. Florida’s minimum wage is currently $8.56 per hour. Are their unseen forces at work hoping for Florida’s demise that egged him on? Or did he really just do all of this on his own, out of the goodness of his heart – getting nothing in return, believing it would truly help people?

Morgan said in a video conference on November 4, that he believes most of his success is because of luck and he is grateful and wanted to “share that good fortune with others” since he started off poor. He said, thinking about how lucky he has been, he believes he is mandated to share some of his good fortune with others, so wanted to see the minimum wage increased and worked to get it on the ballot.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association strongly opposed the measure, saying this would hurt the hospitality industry and other businesses, especially those barely hanging on from the effects of the pandemic. To throw this on them at such a crucial time could be disastrous for some. Those opposed to the measure ask, if small businesses cannot afford to pay their workers nearly double what they are making now, within the next 6 years, what will they do? Most large chain stores and corporations will be able to adjust and survive; but the number of small businesses may inevitably shrink and the landscape of rural Florida might look quite differently in the years to come. Residents from small towns and rural areas could find themselves having to drive to a larger city to take their family out for dinner, for instance, while the famous dollar menu heads for extinction.

In his video, Morgan stated that he will not mind paying 50 cents more for his hamburger at a restaurant. That figure is grossly underestimated. Experts say it will be at least double what prices are now for a hamburger in 2026, for example. That 50 cents will, in reality, be more like an $8 to $12 increase by 2026, bringing the average cost of a burger at a restaurant to anywhere from $15 to $24.

While some are happy to see the wage increase, stating that extra money would really help them and their family, many of the working class in North Florida are already expressing their anxiety over the wage hike. They are concerned the cost of everything is going to go up, i.e., their rent, groceries, eating out, hotels, motels, clothing, you name it. They are also concerned about being laid off because businesses will employ less workers and expect more from the ones that remain.

One restaurant owner in Live Oak said they have a teen-aged dishwasher that will be making $15 an hour. “Some teachers barely make that much today. The restaurant business has such a small percentage of profit as it is … I honestly don’t know if we will be here in 2026. Can you imagine a $15 hamburger on the menu as the ‘norm’ for our small town?”

On the other hand – some of the other small businesses in the area, not in the hospitality business, have anticipated the increase and began implementing a higher hourly wage for their workers a couple of years ago. They believe they will be able to keep up with the hikes as they come. So this remains a divided issue.

Morgan stated the working poor won really big on November 4 in a forever way, but many are saying that could be the opposite when the cost of living increases across the board, to supplement the wage hikes. Only time will determine the outcome.
Employers have until September, 2021, before the first increase of Amendment 2 is put into effect.

Here is the breakdown of wages for non-tipped employees:

• Now through December 31, 2020 – $8.56
• January 1, 2021 – $8.65
• September 30, 2021 – $10.00
• September 30, 2022 – $11.00
• September 30, 2023 – $12.00
• September 30, 2024 – $13.00
• September 30, 2025 – $14.00
• September 30, 2026 – $15.00

Here are the increases for tipped employees:

• Now through December 31, 2020 – $5.54 per hour plus tips
• January 1, 2021 – $5.63 per hour plus tips
• September 30, 2021 – $6.98 per hour plus tips
• September 30, 2022 – $7.98 per hour plus tips
• September 30, 2023 – $8.98 per hour plus tips
• September 30, 2024 – $9.98 per hour plus tips
• September 30, 2025 – $10.98 per hour plus tips
• September 30, 2026 – $11.98 per hour plus tips

Florida has become the eighth state to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour. The other states are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.