Standing alongside members of local unions, Democratic Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced this week that all City of Tampa employees will get a $15-per-hour minimum wage.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” Castor said of the $15 minimum that starts Oct. 1. “Growing the talent that we need to ensure a strong future for Tampa means paying our workers a living wage.”
Castor’s announcement will only affect about 50 employees who now make less than $15 per hour. She said the increase will cost the city about $70,000 annually.
St. Petersburg is also paying city workers a minimum wage of $15 an hour starting Oct. 1.
The battle for a $15 living wage has been a staple of the labor movement in Florida and nationally for several years now.
A ballot initiative to raise Florida’s statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour continues.
Orlando attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan is the financial backer leading that movement in Florida. If it gets on the ballot and is approved by the voters next year, it would raise the minimum wage from the current $8.46 per hour rate to $10 per hour starting in 2021, then rise by $1 each year until it hits $15 an hour in 2026.
Mayor Castor’s announcement in Tampa was praised by Monica Russo, president of the Service Employees International Union’s Florida State Council.
“Today is a great day for working families in Tampa,” Russo said in a written statement. “We applaud Mayor Castor for keeping her promises, being a champion for working people and leading by example. We look forward to more cities and private employers doing the same through 2020 and beyond. The fight for wages is about dignity, respect, and economic justice! If you work hard, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.”
In 2017, the St. Petersburg City Council passed an ordinance requiring any contractor or vendor that does more than $500,000 business with the city to pay its workers $15 an hour (the ordinance had an escalating provision, beginning at $13 an hour).
In 2016, the city of Miami Beach passed an ordinance that would have required private employers to gradually raise the pay for their minimum wage employees until 2021.
The move was opposed by business groups, and was later overturned in both the Miami-Dade County circuit court and the Third District of Appeal. The Florida Supreme Court put the nail in that coffin earlier this year by announcing it would not hear Miami Beach’s appeal.