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Minimum wage increase on November ballot draws mixed feelings in Leon County

Posted at 7:10 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 19:10:43-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Like many other businesses, restaurants and their employees are struggling to adjust to the pandemic and make ends meet.

Their fear now is if voters approve Amendment 2 and raise the minimum wage to $15, we'll see even more businesses close their doors for good.

Maybe you've seen the signs saying $15 an hour could be a reality.

"We found when going door-to-door, that many people did not know about the $15 minimum wage ballot initiative," said Bob Rackleff.

The signs were put up by the Big Bend Voting Rights Project as a way to show potential voters they power their vote holds.

"The signs don't say for or vote against," Rackleff said. "We're mostly informational."

That information was welcomed by Victoria Robinson, who has worked for minimum wage and supports raising it.

"I could barely pay my phone bill sometimes and every other expense," said Robinson. "Luckily, I was still at home."

She says, during this pandemic, earning a livable wage means more than ever.

"I know people who are really out here on their own, grinding, trying to support an apartment," Robinson said. "I know that money is going by like that."

If 60 percent of voters say yes, the state minimum wage goes up to $10 next year with a $1 increase every year until it hits $15.

That's something the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association says could be bad for business.

"Since COVID has hit, our hospitality and tourism industry, which is the economic engine of our state, is on life support," said Carol Dover.

FRLA says about 2,000 restaurants have said good-bye for good during the pandemic. Adding a wage increase holds the possibility of one-third of the businesses shutting down.

Now, on their website, FRLA is providing a calculator to show businesses what their specific cost increase could be.

"I had one member that put the numbers in and it was over $600,000 for him," said Dover. "It's a small restaurant. He said, 'Carol, that's more than my profit. So that's it for me.'"

Voters Rackleff is registering want to see wages increase.

"They understand the value of being able to make a living from the minimum wage," Rackleff said. "Today, at barely eight-and-a-half dollars, doesn't get it."

It takes 60 percent of the votes being in favor of increased minimum wage for it to pass. Elections Day is Nov. 3.