25,000 Reasons Why Florida Shouldn’t Fight For $15

Original Article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelsaltsman/2017/10/16/25000-reasons-why-florida-shouldnt-fight-for-15/#1a1cb3676f6c

  • Author: Michael Satlsman

  • Publication Date: October 2017

  • Newspaper: Forbes

  • Topics: Minimum Wage

25,000. That’s the number of unemployed young adults in Florida who aren’t enrolled in school, and don’t have a high school diploma. Their unemployment rate currently averages 22 percent–more than five times the current four-percent state unemployment rate.

Even at the state’s current minimum wage of $8.10–rising to $8.25 at the start of 2018–these young adults are having difficulty finding employment. Should Florida pursue a $15 minimum wage, their job prospects and the prospects for many others will get immeasurably worse.

Florida voters put this most recent increase in motion in 2004, voting in favor of a constitutional amendment to link the state’s minimum wage to the rate of inflation. This amendment has made Florida something of a regional outlier. At the start of next year, the state’s wage floor will be a dollar higher than any of its immediate neighbors.

There’s little appetite in the legislature to make Florida even more of an outlier. In the most recent legislative session, two bills to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour (HB109 and SB6) died in committee. That means the most-likely path to $15 for activists in Florida is a constitutional amendment at the ballot box. This isn’t hypothetical: Orlando attorney John Morgan has threatened to provide the funding to make it a reality in either 2018 or 2020.

A new survey of Florida businesses, conducted by survey research firm CorCom Inc, makes clear that it would be an economic disaster for the state.

One-third of surveyed employers said they’d be forced to go out of business, with 18 percent very likely to close. For those businesses that don’t close, other cost-cutting measures are on the table: One-half said they’d likely reduce staff, with 39 percent very likely to reduce staff. (These consequences are consistent with the experience of recent minimum wage experiments in Seattle and San Francisco.)

This erosion of workplace opportunities isn’t a “business” problem; it’s a societal problem. 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 2018 or 2020.