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Nancy Smith

A $15-an-Hour Minimum Wage for Florida? Luckily, Voters Will Have Time to Think It Through

January 24, 2019 - 6:00am
John Morgan
John Morgan

You can take it to the bank: A constitutional amendment for a $15-an-hour minimum wage will be on the 2020 ballot in Florida. As John Morgan said Tuesday in his announcement, “One good thing is, I understand how to do this."

Boy, does he ever.

Florida's most prominent personal injury attorney made a push for medical marijuana on the 2014 ballot, the measure failed by a whisker. He tried again in 2016, much the wiser, spending $6.5 million of his own money. Even needing a 60 percent vote to make it happen, he got a whopping 71.3 percent.

When it comes to turning the world on its ear, the man is magic.

I Beg to DifferBut, just because Morgan can get the $15-an-hour minimum-wage vote on the ballot doesn't mean we should follow him like lemmings off a cliff. 

A statewide telephone survey of Florida businesses, conducted in July and August 2017 by research firm CorCom Inc, concluded a $15-an-hour minimum wage would be an economic disaster for this state. Such an increase would cripple many of the state's small businesses.

Here's what the survey discovered:

  • "Alarmingly, nearly one-third --30 percent -- (of businesses surveyed) say they may be forced to go out of business, with 18 percent very likely to close. They do not think they could absorb the increase or pass it along to their customers.
  • "Many business owners and managers anticipate that increases will also hurt workers. Half or more will see operations scaled back and expect to cut employee hours (56 percent). About as many say they will have staff layoffs (50 percent). About one-third will likely look for technological alternatives (automation) to replace workers (33 percent) or hire more experienced workers (33 percent).
  • "Consumers will feel the pinch too. Most businesses will likely increase prices (59 percent), especially those with tipped employees (75 percent), ones who operate in the hospitality industry (73 percent) or ones that are part of a franchise (64 percent).
  • "The argument that it will be easier on businesses if the increases are phased in over time does not seem to hold up. Nearly half (49 percent) say they will be forced to make changes (price increases, layoffs, etc.) once the rates reach $11. When the rate reaches $15, two-thirds (68 percent) expect that they will be forced to respond."

Morgan pooh-poohs all this. 

"Our belief is that the single greatest issue facing America and Florida today is a living wage," he explained at his Tuesday press conference. "That people are working harder and harder and getting further and further behind. That the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is sinking into the abyss. And that is where the desperation you see in America comes from."

On the other hand, what does Florida have to be ashamed of? In 2004 voters passed a constitutional amendment linking its minimum wage to the rate of inflation. It made Florida something of a regional outlier. The state's wage floor, $8.46 an hour, is actually at least a dollar higher than any of its immediate neighbors, and $1.21 higher than the national minimum rate of $7.25 an hour.

In recent years there's been little appetite in the Legislature to make Florida even more of an outlier. During the 2016 session, two bills to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour (HB 109 and SB 6) died in committee. Which is no doubt why Morgan is taking the route he's most familiar with, the constitutional amendment.

The approximately 25,000 unemployed young adults in Florida who aren't enrolled in school and don't have a high school diploma have an unemployment rate averaging 22 percent, according to Forbes magazine. That's more than five times the current 3.3 percent unemployment rate.  

"This erosion of workplace opportunities isn't a 'business' problem, it's a societal problem," said Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employment Policies Institute (EPI) in Washington, D.C. "Starter jobs lead to higher pay and better benefits later in life, and they reduce the risk that young people will embrace illegal means of employment. If these jobs don't exist, what happens to the 25,000 less-educated young Floridians who'd like to work but can't find it? The answer to that question should be foremost on voters minds should they see a $15 minimum wage on the ballot in 2020."

The District of Columbia has the highest minimum wage at $13.25, while California and Massachusetts are at $12. Those two states, D.C. and New York, are scheduled to have $15 minimum wages -- D.C. by next year, California by 2022, Massachusetts by 2023. Some cities such as Seattle have their own minimum wages that are higher than their state's. And New York -- well, the phasing-in is happening now.

Employers in New York with 10 or fewer workers have until Dec. 31, 2019 to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour from the present $12. NYC restaurateur Sebastien Muller asks, “Do you think it's a coincidence that stores are eliminating cashiers and automating checkout? Airport restaurants are moving to electronic service, McDonald’s will figure out more ways to automate.”

Certainly California is no example for Florida to follow. Rather, it’s a warning of the dark future to come should the state embrace Morgan's ballot initiative. Certainly, as progressive as the Golden State is, it's trying to phase in the $15 minimum wage carefully, but it allowed cities to go to $15 immediately if that's what their voters decided. San Francisco was the first California city to make the $15 minimum-wage law, and it has gone badly, especially in the restaurant business. The Bay Area experienced so many restaurant closures that one food industry writer called it a “death march.”

A recent report from economists David McPherson (Trinity University) and Bill Even (Miami University) estimated that California will lose 400,000 jobs by the time $15 minimum wage is fully phased in.

Morgan's amendment would also be phased in. It would increase the minimum wage to $10 the first year, then by a dollar each year until it reaches $15.

If the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the hospitality industry, virtually every small-business organization in the state claims a $15 minimum wage will kill jobs and businesses and raise prices on customers, shouldn't we at least listen?

“Rather than adding another new mandate on local businesses, we should come together to ensure there’s a universal path to prosperity through job training that creates $50,000 careers for the 1.7 percent of Floridians earning a minimum wage full time,” Florida Chamber spokeswoman Edie Ousley told AP. 

We have a long time before Voting Day 2020. The Supreme Court has to OK the ballot language and Morgan needs more signatures. It's enough time for Floridians to absorb the arguments and make a reasoned decision before they actually vote.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith


You sound just like Ocasio Cortez. A bartender than has a 480 credit score and has been evicted twice.

You sound just like Ocasio Cortez. A bartender than has a 480 credit score and has been evicted twice.

First of all, I cannot understand why the State of Florida approved Marijuana, when (NOW) it is a 10 times stronger , and more Dangerous Drug then it was in the 80's. All the Accidents, and Deaths will not be a Hallucination. ......If Florida approves this $15.00 and Hour wage, then they themselves will have to Pay more for their Workers. They presently have Skilled Tradesmen that make $12 to $14 dollars an Hour. They will not settle for $15, when someone Flipping Hamburgers makes the same. They will and rightfully should make more, but America has Ignored the Skilled Tradesmen who build their Homes, and places of Business, and make them last. This will $$Cost Jobs, and Raise Taxes to get the needed Millions it will take to bring Tradesmen to where they belong. Good Intentions will BITE Florida in the Butt. Unemployment will rise, Taxes will rise, workloads of remaining employees will increase, is this "for the people"???

BINGO! Why should anyone take the time and effort to improve their skills when their pay will be no different than someone working at their first job?

If you LIKE the $15 minimum wage, you're likely in a world of hurt anyway. FLASH! This would amount could wrk for a 'single' person - but for even a SMALL family? And small businesses couldn't even afford to pay very many people. RESULT! There are practically no jobs available and the price of EVERYTHING has gone up (it's called INFLATION). So who's better off?

Liberalism is a disease of the heart and mind. It is a dangerous and failed ideology that rewards laziness and incompetence, but punishes hard work and success. It is a severely skewed concept of fairness; that takes from one and gives to another whether deserving or not. It favours special interest groups over individual liberty. It is the entire opposite of what our founding fathers had in mind. It is a system of entitlements that results in supply causing demand instead of the opposite. It is fiscally reckless and morally misdirected. It says it promotes tolerance and equality, but the result is racism and class warfare. It is a false belief that mankind can evolve for the better and that government can socially engineer a utopia. It is a cancer that spreads if left unchecked.

Regarding extreme income inequality - the same problem existed during the 'Robber Baron (Gilded) Age' at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. Leaders then, like Republican Teddy Roosevelt and the Congress at the time, took steps to remedy the situation. The same income inequality exists again today ... where "The One Percent" have become the 'lords' of 'The New Feudalism' ... while the working middle class is once again taking it in the ear due to run amok capitalism ... but, unlike their early 20th century counterparts, the contemporary leaders and current Congress today have made themselves part of the problem instead of being the solvers of the problem! Ditch Mitch! Dump Trump!

Typical liberal response, rather than pursuing a higher paying job with your own initiative, try to force legislation through forcing EVERYONE to do so. It is an entry level job killer. Go to work!

And you obviously have never had an economics class. Dump socialism, dump Morgan and all other DemocRATS

And you obviously have never had an economics class. Dump socialism, dump Morgan and all other DemocRATS

Think of this in 2 ways, if good people cannot earn a living, they will either turn to crime or food stamps, take your pick, but 1 thing is for sure, they will not just sit there and starve to death in some homeless shelter.

Oh and another thing. You will never have income equality UNTIL YOU HAVE EQUAL WORK ETHIC. which is something the low paid, unskilled workers dont have.

Oh and another thing. You will never have income equality UNTIL YOU HAVE EQUAL WORK ETHIC. which is something the low paid, unskilled workers dont have.

Oh and another thing. You will never have income equality UNTIL YOU HAVE EQUAL WORK ETHIC. which is something the low paid, unskilled workers dont have.

Smoke another bowl Bill. Let's talk about the effects of this, those of which you have no clue about. First the illegals have ruined many good paying "middle class jobs" construction for example. I'm sure you've never ran a business so you have no clue about that. Second how many mom and pop stores can afford 15.00/hr. You probably bitch about Walmart but want to leave them as the only options for jobs by forcing mom and pops to close. Great job. Dumbass

The possibility of civic and civil breakdown between "The Haves" and "The Have-Nots" becomes a greater and greater possibility with each passing year. Continued run amok income inequality will be the straw that ultimately breaks the camel's back!

Income inequality is the motivation for improvement of one's own value and skills. Nations that have income equality are poverty stricken as a result.

If the people want it, and vote for it, so be it... If they don't, they don't. Beyond tired of trailer park heroes, unemployed editors, or politicians telling us what we should and should not be happy with. It is long past due for a return to gov't, "of the people, by the people, and for the people". and for that Mr. Morgan, we say thank you...

Yeah. Thank Mr Morgan for trying to put all the mom and pops shops out of business. Good job fool.

"Mr. Morgan" ever get his law license back?

His is only the richest and most prominent trial practice in the country...

Think all those retired folk living on fixed incomes will vote for this? What will be the true cost of grocery items be when every person having anything to do with it's growing, transportation,storage, processing, ads, selling, etc. has their increase in salary? Keep in mind the very low interest rate investments have been paying since 2008. If this passes it sounds like Granny will not be eating much at all. Hello pet food!

People working everyday in critical job, caring for children, disabled individuals and the elderly (often our relatives and people we love dearly) cannot make a living wage in Florida today. If we don't address this inequity in the marketplace then ideas like raising the minimum wage will be seen as the only way to create living wages or this critically needed workforce. That's one path to addressing the growing support for this amendment.


Rather see persons work only for "Tips", then you would actually see better service, better manners, better work ethic, and a much better "work product".

What the hell is Morgan smoking?!?...(OH YEAH !... Of course, now we "get it"! ) "Constitutional Amendments": (they certainly do draw the "uneducated, ill-informed masses" out to vote...)

says the fat, lazy unemployed trailer park president from NY who lives off the Gov't teat... Perhaps you could move your rather large caboose back to NY and get a job tiny...

Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle.

Morgan may have seized on another populist issue to champion, but the unintended consequences will not bode well for Florida. The State sets the floor and links it to inflation for those with very few skills they bring to the marketplace. Some lack even basic knowledge which should have been learned in grammar school. Yet to summarily raise their wages not on value but an arbitrary amount would adversely reverberate among the unskilled, semi-skilled and even into the skilled ranks. An semi-skilled employee making $17/hour now would feel devalued. And if employers summarily raised their wage structure grid to maintain current levels of separation, then the wage adjustment would have to increase 77% across the board for semi and full skilled individuals. Such a notion would cause employers of all sizes to automate or die. Then you would see those without high school diplomas to at least double the unemployment rates for that strata. Mr. Morgan, did you think this through?

Well said. He thinks like a classic leftist Democrat.


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