Workers under 21 and other “hard-to-hire” employees could earn less than minimum wage if a bill some have called “discriminatory” is passed.
Some workers could earn less than minimum wage in Florida if proposed legislation is approved in Tallahassee.
On Thursday, Jeff Brandes, Republican state senator, filed a bill to include a new amendment next year that allows employers to pay less than minimum wage to workers under 21, those convicted of felonies or now in prison, and “other hard-to-hire employees.”
“What this tries to address is those who can’t find a job at minimum wage or are low-skilled or of another class that is hard to hire,” Brandes told WESH 2–TV.
The new measure comes after 61% of Florida voters approved last November an amendment to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour starting in September of this year, with a one dollar per year raise until $15 is reached in 2026. Florida’s current minimum wage is $8.56 an hour.
The measure has been criticized. Manny Díaz, Florida Democratic party chair, called it ridiculous and discriminatory, especially after Floridians voted for the minimum-wage increase.
Democratic lawmaker Anna Eskamani highlighted how many under the age of 21 are homeless students attending college, living in their cars, or at home helping to support families.
“It’s really disappointing to see this coming from someone who has championed criminal justice issues, and I really hope it doesn’t go anywhere this session,” Eskamani told the Florida TV channel.
John Morgan, an Orlando trial lawyer, anticipated he would sue if Brandes’ bill advances because it targets some of Florida’s most vulnerable populations.
“By pushing to pay these workers pennies on the dollar of what they deserve, some in Tallahassee seem more concerned with perpetuating an evil cycle of systemic poverty, racism, and disenfranchisement to benefit corporations, rather than serve the interests of their constituents,” Morgan told the Herald Tribune.
Brandes defended the measure, saying it will create opportunities for some people to get the job skills and training they otherwise might not get.
“These groups have typically been in the 25% to 35% unemployment rate, which is four or five times the state’s average of 6.5%,” the senator told Spectrum News.
Brandes’ bill would have to be approved by 60% of Florida’s Republican-controlled House and Senate to get on the 2022 ballot.