Miami, Fla. – On Tuesday November 10, hundreds of Floridians will come together to demand action from state legislators and presidential candidates to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Rallies and marches will be held in over 20 cities across Florida, as part of a National Day of Action with events in over 500 cities throughout the country. Floridians will rally in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Miami, Clearwater, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Fort Myers, among other cities.
As Florida’s legislative session approaches and attention on the presidential primaries grows, Florida’s working families and voters are making a clear demand to state legislators and presidential candidates: hardworking Floridians need and deserve to earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form a union, in order to help thousands of families out of poverty and restore our country’s middle class. Recent polls show that 65% of Florida voters support raising the minimum wage.
Florida voters are calling on lawmakers to take action at the state level by co-sponsoring the $15 minimum wage legislation, SB6 and HB109 and at the local level they are demanding legislators pass living wage ordinances. These demands come as SEIU Florida is set to launch campaigns across the state to push for living wage ordinances.
“Too many hard working Floridians don’t earn enough to support their families, while wages have remained stagnant for years. It’s time for our politicians to rise to the occasion, raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour, and push fair wages for all of Florida’s working families who are way overdue for an increase,” said Monica Russo, President of SEIU Florida. “SEIU Florida has pledged to exclusively endorse and make contributions to candidates who agree to support the fight for $15, and we are determined to turn out voters that will demand a living wage at the polls in 2016.”
SEIU Florida, Fight for 15 Florida and community members will stand together with underpaid workers who serve fast food, educate and care for children, care for seniors and people living with disabilities, help airport passengers, teach students in higher education and many others, to make sure the voices of Florida’s workers and voters are heard loud and clear.
“Making $15 an hour for me would be a tremendous help in my life. The extra money would mean I could pay an extra bill instead of living paycheck to paycheck. I’m not doing this just for me, but so my grandchildren won’t have to struggle so much,” says Laura Rollins from Fort Lauderdale, a 63-year-old McDonald’s worker who makes only $8.45 an hour after 6 years of service.
A recent United Way report concluded that Floridians need $15 an hour just to make ends meet as 45 percent - or 3.2 million - of all households in this state can’t afford basic housing, child care, food, health care and transportation. The last time the minimum wage was increased in Florida was in January when it went up a pathetic 12 cents, so an increase is clearly long overdue.
“I devote my time to take care of Florida’s seniors and patients that need total care; it’s a hard job, but I do it because it’s my passion,” said Gladys Charles, Certified Nursing Assistant in Venice, FL who makes less than $15 after 17 years of service. “If I care for Florida, why can’t Florida care for me? I’m not asking for much, just to earn a living wage to take care of my family and pay my bills.”
A recent poll of workers paid less than $15/hr commissioned by the National Employment Law Project showed that 69% of unregistered voters would register to vote if there was a candidate who supported $15/hr and a union; and that 65% of registered voters paid less than $15/hr would be more likely to vote if there was a candidate who supported $15/hr and a union. Seventy-six percent of the underpaid workers surveyed said they would pledge to vote for candidates who support $15 and a union. That’s 48 million potential voters who could turn out if there were candidates who backed higher pay and union rights.
Over the next year, the Fight for $15 plans to engage this untapped voter group around issues of higher pay, union rights, improved child care and home care, racial justice and immigration reform— issues identified by underpaid workers as key factors in whether they will go to the polls for a candidate. Forty-two percent of workers in America are paid less than $15, including 48% of women, 54% of African Americans, and 60% of Latinos.
The expansion of the Fight for $15 into the 2016 political arena marks the latest sign of the mounting political power of underpaid workers who, just three years ago launched their movement for higher pay and union rights in New York City. The demand for $15/hr is already helping to define the 2016 presidential race. All of the major Democratic presidential candidates support the Fight for $15, and the Democratic National Committee voted in August to make $15/hr an official part of its 2016 platform.
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.