Voters in Florida overwhelmingly voted in favor of an amendment to the state’s constitution that would raise the minimum wage incrementally to $15 per hour within the next six years.
With every precinct in Florida reporting its results on Wednesday morning, 61 percent of voters (of the 10.48 million who voted on the question) said they supported the measure, while only 39 percent said they opposed it.
“Tonight the people of Florida gave the working poor a forever raise,” Orlando lawyer and minimum wage activist John Morgan said on Tuesday night to the Tampa Bay Times. “This was not a political issue, it was a moral issue.”
Florida will become the eighth state to implement a shift toward $15 per hour minimum wage over the next few years.
The raise in the wage will be a gradual one. Starting in September 2021, the state’s minimum wage will go up to $10 per hour, and will increase every year thereafter by an additional dollar until 2026, when it gets to $15 per hour. After that, the minimum wage will be adjusted annually to reflect changes in inflation.
The issue of the minimum wage has been a contentious battle in the United States in recent years, one that Democrats have been slow to embrace as quickly as some proponents would like. However, Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden campaigned this year on raising the federal minimum wage to the rate that Florida voters just approved. The current federal minimum wage is at $7.25 per hour.
It’s unlikely that Biden will be able to implement that wage at the federal level, however, if he becomes president, as a number of races in this year’s elections appear to show that Republicans will retain hold of the Senate. Without Democrats in charge of the Senate, any proposal to raise workers’ wages across the nation will likely be blocked.
Several critics have lambasted the idea of raising the minimum wage, purportedly for being too costly and burdensome for businesses, which they say would then pass on the costs to consumers. But a study from the University of Washington in Seattle found that raising the minimum wage had “no overall market basket price changes” with regard to food costs at local markets after that city had raised the rate it paid its lowest-earning workers in 2014.
“Local area supermarket food prices were not impacted by Seattle’s minimum wage policy 2 years into policy implementation and after the first increase to $15/h overall or by sub-classification,” that study stated, adding that “low-income workers may be able to afford higher quality diets if wages increase yet supermarket prices stay the same.”