A day after the Florida Supreme Court approved a $15-an-hour minimum wage ballot measure, Orlando lawyer John Morgan says he is ready to “go to war” for the working poor in Florida to pass the proposal in the 2020 general election.
“What I’m fixing to do is go to war on behalf of the working poor in Florida. I have no intention of ever running for political office. I have no intention of ever doing one of these ever again,” Morgan said during a press conference Friday in Orlando. “This is, without question, my last crusade, and I’m going to give it everything I have.”
Morgan said he expects opposition from business groups and Republican political leaders.
“If you have a better idea than my idea, do something. Put up or shut up. Unless you believe that it’s fair that the minimum wage is going to go this year from $8.46 an hour to $8.56 an hour [in January]. A dime. A dime raise,” Morgan said. “Is a constitutional amendment the perfect way to address the minimum wage? Of course not. But it’s the only way.”
Morgan, a wealthy trial lawyer who financed and led the successful medical marijuana ballot initiative in 2016, said he has a lot at risk in this campaign, having provided most of the $5 million behind the effort to place the proposed state constitutional amendment on next year’s ballot.
But he said it could provide a lasting benefit to Floridians if the measure passes next year with at least 60 percent of the vote – the threshold for amending the state Constitution.
“It would be the greatest philanthropy of my life if it passes because the millions I’ve spent will turn into hundreds of millions and billions of dollars [of higher pay] over time,” Morgan said.
He cited the potential impact on the state’s housing crisis.
“Why do we have a housing crisis? Because people cannot afford to pay rent. People cannot afford to buy a house,” Morgan said. “This fixes the housing crisis because now, with a fair wage, people can rent an apartment or buy a house.”
Morgan also emphasized that the proposal would not immediately raise the minimum wage to $15. Instead, if endorsed by voters, the existing $8.46 wage would rise to $10 an hour in 2021. Then, over the next five years, it would rise by $1 a year, reaching $15 an hour in 2026. After that, it would be adjusted annually based on an inflation index.
Morgan disputed the notion that the effort was based on politics.
“This is a moral issue. This has nothing to do with politics. This this has to do with right and wrong and fundamental fairness and dignity,” he said.
He also countered arguments that raising the minimum wage would result in the loss of jobs or higher prices for goods.
“People are not going to be displaced from their jobs. If you need people to wash the car, you’re going to have people wash the car,” Morgan said. “They’re concerned that they their prices might go up. Well, let me tell you something, I’ll pay 50 cents more for hamburger, for somebody to have dignity. I’ll pay a little bit more. Won’t you?”
Morgan’s full press conference can be seen here on Facebook.