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Florida voters lift minimum wage to $15 an hour

A look at the Latino vote in Florida
A look at the Latino vote in Florida 02:54

The labor movement scored an electoral victory in Florida Tuesday as voters narrowly approved a ballot measure to hike the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. The initiative extends a string of wins for the union-backed Fight for $15 campaign, which has pushed for states around the U.S. to boost worker pay.

Up to 2.5 million workers — a quarter of Florida's workforce — are now in line for higher pay, estimates the Florida Policy Institute. The increase will bring "individuals and couples without children and smaller families to a living wage, while lifting struggling working families closer to a sustainable income," the Orlando-based public policy research group wrote in a recent paper.

Backed by 60.8% of Florida voters, the ballot initiative just crossed the 60% threshold needed to approve an amendment to the state's constitution. Amendment 2 calls for increasing the state's current minimum of $8.56 an hour to $10 in September of 2021, then to increase it by a dollar per year through 2026. Starting in 2027, yearly increases would be based on consumer prices.

"Our victory means that 2.5 million working Floridians won't have to scramble and stress at the end of each month to keep the roof over our heads and pay the bills. Higher wages means that workers can afford food and health care for ourselves and our children," Faith Booker, a McDonald's worker and organizer with Fight for $15 and a Union in Lakeland, Florida, said in a statement. 

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and other business groups opposed the measure, warning it would hammer small businesses already hard-hit by the pandemic. 

On or around January 1, the minimum wage increased in 21 states, while another 26 cities and counties also boosted their baseline pay at year-start. Later in the year, an additional four states and 23 cities and counties will hike their minimum wages, according to the National Employment Law Project, a worker rights group.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office last year found that hiking the national minimum to $15 an hour as of 2025 would cost 1.3 million American jobs but also lift the same number of workers out of poverty.

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour hasn't budged since 2009, the longest span without an increase since it was passed in 1938 as part of the landmark Fair Labor Standards Act.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages that top the federal minimum, and five states have not adopted a state minimum: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. New Hampshire repealed its state minimum wage in 2011 but adopted the federal level.

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