Taking the poverty plunge: Politicians and political hopefuls promise to live on minimum wage

By : Billy Manes
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This morning, the Fight for 15 campaign (along with Organize Now and the SEIU) staged a press conference at Sedano’s wayyyyy out east on Curry Ford Road. If it seems like a pointless effort — a living wage ordinance was just tabled in Osceola County last week — it certainly didn’t feel that way outside the grocery store.

Former Taco Bell employee Andrew Skurow claimed that he could have gone blind from the oil that would fly up into his eyes while preparing the fastest of foods, and his employers didn’t give a damn. Most argued that increasing wages would feed more money into our dire Central Florida economy, which would, in effect, cost businesses no money. As witnessed at the recent Osceola hearing, employers aren’t buying it. As witnessed across the country where these living wage ordinances have passed, though, employers are wrong.

Putting their money where their mouths are, several politicians are buying (and saving) the notion, however. Citing the fact that more than one-half of black workers make less than a living wage (Florida’s minimum  wage is $8.05, about half of what it takes to stay alive), politicos —  including LGBT candidate for the Florida House of Representatives Carlos Smith, tax collector Scott Randolph, his wife (and candidate for Congress) Susannah Randolph, Rep. Victor Torres and Sen. Geraldine Thompson, among others —  have agreed to eat humble pie for a week and live on the minimum wage (minus rental costs, etc.). They’ve also challenged their Republican peers to do the same, though we doubt that will happen.

Smith says that, despite appearances of disposable income, the LGBT community is not immune to the economic disaster that a poorly paid populace presents. Quite to the contrary, really.

“We cannot all be truly equal until we have the opportunity to earn a living wage,” he says, adding that the majority of Florida’s minorities are living on “starvation wages.” He’ll be bargain eating beginning Oct. 12.

Here’s the press release:

Florida Legislators Agree To Live on Minimum Wage for One Week as Underpaid Workers in Orlando, St. Petersburg, Miami and Fort Lauderdale Push for $15 in Florida

WHO: Florida state legislators, underpaid workers, community leaders

WHAT: Elected officials announce they will be living on minimum wage for one week

WHEN: Monday, September 28, 2015

WHERE:  

  • Miami: El Libanes Supermarket, 1960 W Flagler St, Miami, FL 33135  9:30 AM
  • Orlando: Sedanos Supermarket, 5660 Curry Ford Rd. Orlando, FL 32822 11:00 AM
  • Bay Area: McDonald’s, 925 62nd Ave North St. Petersberg, FL 33702 2:30 PM

Miami, Fla. – One week after underpaid fast-food, healthcare, airport and childcare workers from across Florida stood together at the State Capitol calling on elected officials to support a $15 minimum wage and walk a week in their shoes, low wage workers across the state will be joined by those legislators who have accepted to take the Minimum Wage Challenge at press conferences in Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami on Monday. The elected officials will live on Florida’s minimum wage for one week beginning September 28 so they can see for themselves how incredibly difficult it is to survive on $8.05 an hour.

 

State Senators Dwight Bullard and Geraldine Thompson along with state Representatives Victor TorresDwight Dudley, Darryl Rouson, John Cortes and José Javier Rodríguez will speak about accepting the challenge to show solidarity with low wage workers who are demanding their voices be heard and deserve to have the ability to care for their families.

 

The “Minimum Wage Challenge” is designed to highlight the need to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour and push elected officials to do everything they can to make a $15 a reality for Florida’s working families. Legislators taking the Minimum Wage Challenge will live on just $17 per day for five days.

 

The Florida legislators will also go grocery shopping with a minimum wage worker to begin the challenge and demonstrate the difficult choices these folks have to make each day while trying to stretch $17 a day for all of their basic needs, including food.

 

So far, 18 Florida legislators have accepted the Minimum Wage Challenge, with others expected to sign on. The full list of legislators taking the challenge is below.

This past September 17, State Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, and Rep. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, called on legislators to sign onto their respective $15 minimum wage bills SB6 and HB109. Both bills call for an increase to the state’s current minimum wage from $8.05 to $15 an hour which is quickly becoming the new standard nationwide.

“I’m excited that we have representatives willing to walk a few days in my shoes and see what it’s like,” said Bleu Rainer, 26, who has been working in the fast food industry for 8 years, yet he still only makes $8.05 an hour. “It’s a struggle just to survive at $8.05. Making $15 an hour would mean we can pay our bills, take care of our families, and live with dignity.”

 

“Scripture speaks consistently about the sin of withholding fair wages,” said Rev. Russell Meyer, President of the Florida Council of Churches. “Fast-growing, but low-paying service jobs in Florida are keeping workers from entering the middle class, fueling inequality. Higher wages would drive a more broadly shared economic recovery, bolstering the ranks of our middle class and lifting up our communities.

 

“We simply cannot survive on the wages we are earning. I work more than 50 hours a week, assisting wheelchair bound passengers. I love my job and I love helping people. But it’s not fair that I make so little that I can’t even afford a one bedroom apartment to share with my daughter,” said Sandra Smith, a wheelchair attendant at Fort Lauderdale Airport. “We workers play a huge role in the profits that these companies are earning. We deserve to share in their success.”

 

“I applaud our legislators for stepping up to the plate to support us in our fight for $15 by living on minimum wage for a week,” said Wesley Williams, a 40 year old McDonald’s employee from Miami. Wesley has been working in fast-food for over 20 years yet he still makes just $9.25 an hour. “I have high hopes that if we keep pushing our leaders, they’ll listen to us and realize that people can’t survive on these wages.” 

 

Thanks to the Fight for $15, underpaid workers are racking up victories across the country, including $15 minimum wages in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as $15 for fast food workers in New York State and $15 for home care workers in Massachusetts. In California, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and the University of California system announced it would raise pay to $15 an hour for its direct and subcontracted workers. And a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in the District of Columbia was certified for the 2016 ballot. Meanwhile Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus introduced a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

 

 

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