According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is 5 percent. Rates haven't been this low since 2007.
That's very good news, but many people work one or even two jobs and still cannot provide for their families. The minimum wage in Florida is $8.05 per hour, and $5.03 per hour for tipped employees. That equates to just more than $300 per week and about $16,000 per year before taxes. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, that's just above the $15,930 poverty guideline for a family of two.
For the past few years, workers in traditionally low-paying fields such as fast food and retail have been fighting for a raise to a $15 minimum wage, along with union rights. Seattle recently passed $15 minimum wage legislation, which will require all large corporate businesses in the city to increase the minimum wage to this level within three years. Businesses with fewer than 500 employees have seven years to comply, with a total compensation package (wage and benefits) to equal at least $15 within five years. New York has also jumped on the $15 bandwagon, with the entire state gradually increasing the minimum wage for fast-food workers within six years. In New York City, that will happen in three years. According to USA Today, nearly a quarter of a million people working at restaurants will be affected by this increase.
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Although workers have won these battles, they're still fighting the war. Strikes are planned for today in 270 cities across the nation. Fast-food workers will gather outside fast-food restaurants in major cities to call for a $15-per-hour pay rate increase. In addition, workers are expected to protest in 500 city halls today and picket the Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee tonight.
Natalia Jaramillo of SEIU's Healthcare Workers East expects more than 600 people at the pair of protests scheduled for today, making them two of the largest events being held in Florida. In Miami, SEIU will organize a protest at the McDonald's near Miami Dade College at 345 NE Second Ave. Beginning at 6 a.m., several employees will walk off the job as a show of solidarity. In addition, there will be a strike line outside the restaurant.
Fast-food workers will be joined by health-care workers at Government Center (111 NW First St., Miami) for a rally at 6 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., the workers will take to the streets in a March ending at the above-mentioned McDonald's.
Rallies and protests in more than 20 cities throughout Florida will take place today as part of a national day of action.