Laura Pierre postponed college to work full-time at Chipotle. But the 18-year-old Miamian says she's realized that saving up for higher education is an impossible dream given Florida's $8.05-per-hour minimum wage. Her mother, a health-care worker who also makes less than $10 an hour, relies on Pierre to contribute to the rent and other utilities.
“I care about my future and want to prevent this from happening to the next generation of workers,” Pierre says.
That's why she is one of hundreds of low-wage workers planning to rally in Miami tomorrow to support a push for a $15-per-hour minimum wage.
“This is something that would affect so many families," Pierre says. "I know [if the minimum wage were raised to $15 an hour], I’d get to spend more time with my mom and go to college.”
Tomorrow's rally comes on the heels of numerous cities — including Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and most recently New York — passing $15-per-hour minimums. Miami's workers will meet at Government Center, listen to a speakers and legislators, and then march throughout the financial district. It’s all part of a National Day of Action, being held in more than 500 cities across the country, including Tampa and Tallahassee.
Florida's minimum wage was raised 12 cents this past January because of a 2004 state amendment adjusting the rate for inflation. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 — and a recent study found that 42 percent of American workers make less than $15 an hour.
Last fall, a United Way report concluded that Floridians need $15 an hour to make ends meet. It also showed that 3.2 million households in Florida are struggling to afford housing, child care, food, health care, and transportation.
Tuesday’s rally has been planned by SEIU Florida and Fight for 15 Florida, with support from Dream Defenders, Power U, and other local activist organizations. Sen. Dwight Bullard and Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine-Cava will also speak. Underpaid workers in the fast food, health care, and airport industries will also attend.
The rally is meant to raise awareness about this issue as Florida’s legislative session and presidential primaries approach. A poll by the National Employment Law Project of workers making less than $15 an hour found that 69 percent of unregistered voters would register if there was a candidate who supported a $15-an-hour wage. Similarly, 76 percent of underpaid workers said they’d vow to vote for a candidate who supported the $15 wage.
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While organizers hope that these numbers will bring living wages to the forefront of legislative debate, they know it won’t be easy. Democrats in the Florida Legislature have stated they’d like to raise wages to $10.10 — a number President Obama has also called for the federal minimum wage. But with Rick Scott and the Republicans in control, it seems unlikely that will happen before 2016.
If the wage is raised to $15 an hour, Pierre says she’ll be able to work fewer hours and finally enroll in college. She says her experience campaigning with the Fight for 15 has motivated her to study political science and management.
“It might not seem like it, but we’ve made a lot of progress already,” Pierre says. “This has been such an amazing experience.”