TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Florida's minimum wage is increasing to $10 an hour starting Thursday, Sept. 30.
This comes as the state gradually works toward a $15 minimum wage over the course of six years.
A supermajority of Florida voters approved the amendment to the Florida Constitution last November that will raise Florida’s minimum wage from $8.56 an hour to $15 an hour by 2026. After the initial increase Thursday, the minimum wage will increase by a dollar each Sept. 30 until it reaches the $15 mark on Sept. 30, 2026.
Workers like Alex Harris, a server at IHOP in Ybor City who organized with the group Fight for $15, is grateful for the pay raise.
“It’s a major, major deal," he said. "It’s life-changing.”
Right now, Harris says he can't afford dental treatment for constant tooth problems, generally must eat meals provided by his employer, and has to wear some clothing items that are damaged and need to be replaced.
While he believes the raise will help him afford a better living, he can't say it will make a drastic difference.
“With the $15 an hour, when we finally end up reaching that, if the prices of everything continue to go up, then it wouldn’t matter," he said.
Advocates of the increase, however, said the higher wages will lift people out of poverty and help them keep up with the cost of living increase, as well as allowing them to contribute to the economy by having more money to spend.
Those who were against the increase include many in the restaurant and hotel industry who said it would do more harm than good and could cause job losses and higher prices for consumers.
They say it will lead to layoffs, fewer hours for workers and even business closures.
University of South Florida economics instructor Chris Jones says it's too soon to quantify the long-term impact the increase will have. However, he believes there will be consequences.
When employers are paying higher prices for labor, Jones believes it could lead to more automation and higher prices.
"That contributes to an increase in the overall level of prices for goods and services and creates more inflation in the economy. So, to some degree it negates or mitigates some degree of the benefit that the worker receives from getting the higher wages," Jones said.
“And it’s not just about Florida or Tampa or Central Florida," he continued. "This is a national question. Whether or not continued significant increases in the minimum wage truly provide a long-term benefit with regards to economic progress or whether it all ends up just being a wash."
Thursday, the credit for tipped employees also increases to $6.98 an hour.