Starting Monday a group of 18 Florida state lawmakers has agreed to live on $17 a day for five days to promote a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
The hope is the Minimum Wage Challenge will bring attention to how low-wage workers struggle on a daily basis. The $17 figure was calculated based on what a full-time minimum wage worker could expect to have left on a daily basis after basic living expenses it. Currently the state minimum wage is $8.05 an hour.
“It helps them with the basic necessities of life. People need to be more than just the working poor, they need to be able to save,” Democratic state Rep. Darryl Rouson told the local affiliate of CBS. “I think the symbolism is accurate. We all need to know that those making less than us are barely making it.”
The $17 a day will have to cover food, transportation and anything else they might need. Rouson is just one of the lawmakers participating in the challenge. All the participants are Democrats. Democratic state Sen. Dwight Bullard, one of two state senators participating, argued the current minimum wage is way too low.
“The minimum wage in Florida is far too low,” Bullard told Public News Service. “You have some estimations that say that if minimum wage kept up with cost of living it would be around $22.”
The bill to raise the state minimum wage was introduced by Democratic state Rep. Victor Torres and Bullard. Currently the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour but many states, cities and counties have gone well above it. Some cities have even gone as high as $15, with several others also considering such a jump. No state has increased its minimum wage that much.
Besides Florida, New York state is also considering raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. New York has already raised wages to $15 for fast-food workers only.
The Florida measure is likely to face a tough uphill battle. Both the state House and Senate have a Republican majority. Additionally Florida Gov. Rick Scott, as a Republican, is not expected to support the bill.
The movement behind the $15 minimum wage has grown in popularity in the past year. It is led primarily by the labor movement and union-backed groups like Fight for $15. Seattle led the way in passing such an increase back in June 2014. San Francisco and Los Angeles followed not long after. Each local ordinance phased in the new wage over the course of several years.
Supporters of the $15 minimum wage often claim it will help the poor and stimulate economic activity. They argue such an amount is the basic standard by which someone can live comfortably. Opponents say such an increase will actually hurt the poor by limiting job opportunities.
The benefits or negative outcomes of increasing the minimum wage usually depend on the study. Nevertheless, even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) agrees any increase of the minimum wage will likely result in at least some job loss.