Several community groups around the state are kicking off a grassroots effort to force Florida to raise its minimum wage by $1.00 an hour. The federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour right now, which is less than $11,000 a year for a full-time job, but states have the power to set their minimum wage at a higher rate. Supporters say a living wage is long overdue.
Dan Stratton manages a sub shop. As someone who runs a small business, he knows raising his workers' wages to $6.15 an hour would cut into his bottom line, but Stratton supports the concept of hiking the minimum wage. He says too many hard-working Floridians are struggling.
“You work 40 hours a week, you're still not making a whole lot of money, especially if you have kids. That's not enough to survive on,” Dan says.
A coalition of community groups looking to boost Florida's minimum wage is trying to get enough petitions signed to put the issue on the ballot as an amendment to the state constitution. The amendment would also tie the minimum wage to the rate of inflation, so it would go up each year, but you can bet many businesses will fight the proposal, especially in a tough economy.
The Florida Retail Federation says the last thing small businesses need right now is an increase in labor costs. Plus the group says the minimum wage should be left to the feds, not the state, but the federal minimum wage hasn't gone up since 1997. Kent Spuhler of Florida Legal Services says workers have been losing money for years.
“It has not anywhere near kept up with inflation, so in fact, a minimum wage worker today is really relatively speaking, making less than a minimum wage worker did 20 years ago,” says Spuhler.
Supporters of raising the minimum wage in Florida are not alone. A dozen states have set their own minimum wage standards higher than the federal rate. One of the biggest hurdles supporters face is just getting enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot. They need nearly 500,000 signed petitions before voters can have their say.
Who makes sure workers are paid the minimum wage?
The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage. Using both enforcement and public education efforts, Wage and Hour strives to ensure that workers are paid the minimum wage.
The Wage and Hour Division has offices throughout the country. The phone numbers and addresses for these offices can be found in the federal government "blue pages" section of the telephone book under "Labor Department."
What happens if state law requires a different minimum wage than federal law?
Where state law requires a higher minimum wage, that higher standard applies.
History or Minimum Wage Coverage
- In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act was enacted. A minimum wage of 25 cents an hour was established at this time.
- In 1949, the minimum wage was raised from 40 cents an hour to 75 cents an hour for all workers and minimum wage coverage was expanded to include workers in the air transport industry.
- The 1961 amendments greatly expanded FLSA’s scope in the retail trade sector and increased the minimum for previously covered workers to $1.15 an hour effective September 1961 and to $1.25 an hour in September 1963.
- The 1966 amendments extended coverage to public schools, nursing homes, laundries, and the entire construction industry. Farms were subject to coverage for the first time if their employment reached 500 or more man days of labor in the previous year's peak quarter.
- The minimum wage increased to $2.30 by 1976 for all except farm workers, whose minimum initially rose to $1.60.
- The 1977 amendments eliminated the separate lower minimum for large agricultural employers, which set a new uniform wage schedule for all covered workers. The minimum rose to $3.35 by January 1981.
- The 1985 amendments permitted State and local governments to compensate their employees for overtime hours worked with compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay, at a rate of 1 1/2 hours for each hour of overtime worked.
- The latest amendments in 1996 increased the minimum wage to $5.15 an hour on September 1, 1997. The amendments also established a youth sub-minimum wage of $4.25 an hour for newly hired employees under age 20 during their first 90 consecutive calendar days.
Source: www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/america.htm (U.S. Department of Labor)