FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Ed Gilhuly, LEFT Communication
MIRAMAR, FL — For working families trying to pay for rent and other necessities, the new $8.46 Florida minimum wage announced this week (effective January 1, 2019) falls far short, according to one of the state’s largest unions.
Members of SEIU Florida, which represents more than 55,000 active and retired health care professionals, public employees, airport workers, adjunct faculty and property service staff in the state, joined Florida Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez at an event in Miami this week to call for a $15 per hour minimum wage and other solutions to help working-class families make ends meet.
They pointed out that the new hourly wage for 2019 is just a 21-cent increase and still leaves a full-time worker well below the Federal Poverty Line, especially with Florida’s lack of affordable housing.
Various studies show that millions of the state’s low-wage workers have few options when facing high rent and other housing costs, and SEIU Florida has made affordable housing one of the key elements to its “Vote for Freedom” platform for the 2018 election.
“It’s not freedom if you have to work two jobs and still have to choose between paying the rent, feeding your children or buying your medicine,” said Monica Russo, president of SEIU Florida. “The fact that Rick Scott and his Republican administration think an additional 21 pennies is enough for hardworking Floridians trying to survive is unconscionable, it’s a shameful slap in the face.”
According to statistics in the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual report, a person earning minimum wage would have to work almost 95 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment in Miami. The study also shows Florida as the sixth-worst state in the nation when it comes to available and affordable housing for low-wage workers.
A study by Forbes ranked Miami as the worst city in the United States for renters, due to the great disparity in housing costs versus wages. And the problem statewide has been exacerbated by the governor’s office and legislature raiding taxpayer-funded trusts that are supposed to develop more affordable housing in the state. In a recent survey supported by the Knight Foundation, 84 percent of top “Florida Influencers” said the next governor and Legislature must direct all the funds from these trusts into state and local programs to properly address the state’s affordable housing crisis.
SEIU Florida’s platform includes these details on the need for affordable housing:
Affordable Housing for all Floridians
All Floridians should have access to housing they can afford. This is a basic necessity and a right of every Floridian. Housing prices are simply too high for Florida families, making it harder to live and retire in our great state.
Protection of Taxpayer Investment in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund
For the last several years, the governor and Florida Legislature have raided the affordable housing trust fund and used the $2.2 billion in taxpayer money it has accumulated since the Great Recession to give tax cuts and other incentives to corporations. We need to stop trust fund raids and protect our taxpayer dollars designated for affordable housing.
Increased Wages to Afford Housing
The Florida Housing Coalition reports that nearly 1 million Florida households use more than half their income on housing. And according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a full-time worker in Florida needs to earn $20.68 per hour to afford rent on the average two-bedroom apartment. We need to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 per hour.
Better Planning that Prioritizes Workforce Housing
All levels of government need to prioritize workforce housing in their planning to ensure that Floridians can live where they work. Many working people have to commute hours to their place of work because of a lack of affordable housing.
The “Vote For Freedom” platform also highlights access to quality, affordable healthcare; good wages; as well as worker and union rights. The platform is backed by a $5 million union investment in get-out-the-vote efforts, communication and other outreach to endorse and support candidates such as Andrew Gillum who have pledged to fight for these critical working-class concerns.
“Too many hardworking Floridians are struggling to keep a safe roof over their head as the cost of housing continues to rise, while the current legislature favors rich real estate developers and donors,” Russo said. “We need to vote for candidates who will serve the needs and freedoms of everyday working families trying to make Florida their home.”
For more information on SEIU Florida, visit www.seiufl.org.
SEIU Florida represents over 55,000 active and retired healthcare professionals, public employees and property service workers in the state of Florida. SEIU members provide vital public services in Florida’s hospitals, nursing homes, public schools, community colleges, municipal and county governments, malls, and universities. With over 2.1 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America.