Coalition celebrates passage of $15 minimum wage amendment

Deirdre O’Leary, Staff writer

STATEWIDE – A coalition of Florida labor unions and progressive groups, including Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), is claiming a major victory with the passage of Amendment 2 on Nov. 3.  The Amendment passed with 60.8 percent of the vote, squeaking by the required threshold of 60 percent.  The minimum wage will rise from $8.56 to $10 per hour on Sept. 20, 2021, and increase one dollar per hour every year until it reaches $15 in 2026.

Richie Floyd, the St. Pete-based chapter organizer for Pinellas DSA, sees this as evidence of the growing power of labor and socialism in Florida.

“Workers across the state have been pushing for this under SEIU (Service Employees International Union) and the fast-food union,” he said. “They have had strikes and demonstrations for years. This victory belongs to them.”

Floyd said his group endorsed the amendment before it was on the ballot and assisted with signing petitions.  Later they merged with Florida Fight for 15 and SEIU.  SEIU built the infrastructure for text banks and phone banks.  The coalition sent 3.1 million texts for both education and got out the vote efforts.

Floyd sees the victory as proof that the traditional liberal approach in Florida is missing the mark.  “Left-wing, socialist values are popular in this state.  Speaking to working people’s issues is popular.”

Grayson Lanza, co-chair of Orlando DSA, said, “We got over 6 million votes for raising the minimum wage, about 1.3 million more than Biden and nearly a million more than Trump.”

Lanza said Florida is a poor state, with 50 percent considered working poor households. She said there was no convincing involved once the people were informed. They even converted nonvoters into voters.

According to Lanza, the Democratic Party did not engage in the campaign for Amendment 2.  “The moderate centrist approach is a losing formula in Florida.  It has led to lost elections.”

Florida Fight for 15 coalition members include the Black social justice group Dream Defenders, progressive political organizations Common Ground and Organize Florida, the Tampa and Pinellas chapters of DSA, the domestic worker advocacy organization WeCount!, the Florida Immigrant Labor Coalition and SEIU.

Lanza estimates $100,000 was spent on the statewide campaign, a relatively modest budget.  They did not have money for TV ads but used radio and social media to get the message out.

Tampa-based attorney John Morgan ran ads initially to help get the amendment on the ballot. The opposition likely spent much more as they ran TV ads. Large corporations such as SeaWorld and Publix voiced their opposition.

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