FLORIDA (CW44 News At 10) – We come in contact with these workers nearly every single day while stopping for food picking up groceries. Some of us are these workers. Local advocates for raising the minimum wage across the state are speaking out about their struggle and why Amendment 2 on the ballot is vital.
CW44’s Andrea Alvarez sat down with Starbucks employee, Sammy Conde to better understand the plight of Fight For $15 advocates. “When you consider that the average rent in Orlando is above $1,000 [per month] and a lot of people who work in fast food have families to take care of, it suddenly becomes very apparent that our minimum wage is not acceptable.”
26-year-old Florida-native and advocate for raising the minimum wage, Conde has had their fair share of struggles due to lower income wages. “I went to college in Ohio to study Political Science. And then I went to grad school and that didn’t go so well. So I came back home and I got a job at Starbucks.” Conde has been working in the food service industry for nearly two years now as a stop-gap, “to help me get through the periods in between elections and to really help me have something stable while working on building my career.” And while they like the Starbucks job for the time being, Conde’s focus is on getting Amendment 2 passed on the 2020 ballot in Florida.
Amendment 2 would raise the state’s minimum wage from $8.56 to $15 an hour, over time. Conde says, “it has been a struggle, money-wise. I make $10 an hour. A lot of my colleagues in other companies make the minimum wage, which is insanely, insanely low. I actually used to live with my dad, and we left each other for various reasons. And now I’m in a situation where I’m trying to find a place to stay but I can’t find anywhere that I can afford. So I’ve been kind of like couch-surfing and staying with friends while I figure that out. And it’s really just unacceptable that people who provide services that are necessary are paid so low that they can’t even afford to find a new place to live in an emergency situation.”
Conde caught a break earlier this year during the coronavirus pandemic, as some workers got a taste of higher wages as part of hazard pay. “I was able to see what it was like to make $13 an hour. Starbucks offered extra pay to people who are working when they didn’t have to. But when I lost it, it really made a huge impact on me because I stopped being able to afford as much food and it became more of a struggle to be able to pay, when I had to pay my dad for rent.”
According to BallotPedia, Amendment 2 would increase the state minimum wage from $8.56 in 2020 to $15.00 in 2026. Under Amendment 2, the state minimum wage would increase each year. Beginning on September 20, 2021, the minimum wage would start at $10 per hour. Each year through 2026 on September 30, the minimum wage would increase by $1 per hour. In 2027, annual adjustments would be based upon increases to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
Opponents of Amendment 2 like Skylar Zander, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida say, “The best way to help workers is to grow the economy so businesses succeed, productivity increases, and employees are rewarded for those gains. Giving a few workers a raise while forcing others to work fewer hours or lose their jobs entirely is no way to achieve that.”
Conde isn’t alone in their struggle. They stand alongside other advocates with the Fight For $15 organization, aimed at getting the same amendment passed. “They’ve been giving us the tools to make sure that we’re heard,” and after participating in strikes and speaking out with Fight For 15, Conde says they’re just getting started. “It’s not a question of whether or not $15 an hour is a minimum wage. It’s, ‘when is it going to happen?’.”
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