Activists launch campaign against bill that would reduce tipped workers’ minimum wage

By | 02.22.12 | 1:02 pm

State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice (Pic by Meredith Hill, via myfloridahouse.gov)

Fight for Florida has launched a new initiative to involve waiters and waitresses in a campaign to oppose a state Senate bill that would allow employers to pay tipped workers a lower minimum wage than what is currently authorized.

Fight for Florida writes: “The next time you eat out, leave behind this ‘tip’ for wait staff in addition to your cash tip. This will let restaurant employees know about this legislative attack and give them the tools to fight back.” The text links to an image to be printed out (.pdf) that reads:

Here’s a Tip! The Florida Legislature is trying to cut your hourly wages from $4.65 to $2.13. Tell them this is wrong!

Rich Templin of the Florida AFL-CIO tells The Florida Independent that Fight for Florida is a “project of many different traditional and non-traditional labor organizations,” established “to involve community members, non-union members” on issues like the minimum wage bill. Templin says that union employees are not affected by this bill but Fight for Florida engages “a broader segment of the population” on issues that impact working families.

State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said at a committee meeting last week — during which the bill passed — that the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association brought the idea for the bill to the Senate committee in an effort to make sure restaurants survive, noting that the bill makes the new minimum wage optional.

Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Restaurant and Lodging Association, said that “during the last week there have been many reports that misreported” about the bill. Dover said restaurants want to keep employees, but the 118 percent increase in their wage since 2004, when voters approved a constitutional amendment to tie minimum wage increases to the inflation index, is hurting the industry.

Fight for Florida adds that members of the “Florida Legislature think $4.65-per-hour is just too much for waiters and waitresses to be making. Their latest scheme would slash the hourly wages of tip earners, like restaurant employees, parking attendants, hotel workers and food delivery workers, from $4.65 to $ 2.13 in order to give special breaks to the big business buddies on Wall Street.”

Fight for Florida adds that the campaign

will let restaurant employees know about this legislative attack and give them the tools to fight back. Working families need assistance, not cuts to their basic pay. This is unfair, unbalanced and would cause economic pain in households and communities across Florida. Help us get the word out today.

Templin, who also spoke at last week’s Senate committee meeting, said that after numerous investigations, the AFL-CIO opposed the bill because it had not found any negative effect from the current wage rate. Templin said that Florida ranks No. 3 in restaurant growth and sales growth, according to National Restaurant Association.

South Florida Jobs with Justice, which supports organized labor and workers, also organized events last week to protest OSI Restaurant Partners, owners of Outback Steakhouse, over the company’s support for the Senate bill.

Follow Marcos Restrepo on Twitter


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