On Thursday, organized labor, community and religious organizations will discuss the current situation of workers in the gaming and hospitality industries in South Florida.

According to a press release issued today by UNITE/HERE, clergy, community, Awake Broward and invited elected officials will “tackle the challenges of the hospitality industry in south Florida” and “discuss serious proposals to implement the principles of the 99%, including job retention at Ft. Lauderdale Airport and support of workers organizing at Mardi Gras Casino.”

In Florida, the leisure and hospitality industry, which has played a major role in the state’s 2011 job growth, does not always provide good wages and benefits to workers.

According to the National Employment Law Project, “[U.S.] job growth since the official end of the recession has been heavily concentrated in lower-wage sectors like retail and food services and drinking places, which together accounted for about two-thirds of jobs gains last month as we entered the holiday season.”

The UNITE/HERE release adds: “With rampant discussion on growth and proposed developments in the gaming, airport and hotel industries across Florida, we’re all are aware of challenges created by south Florida’s high-revenue (but low-wage) tourism and hospitality industry.”

GOP state legislators Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, recently filed a bill that would allow three “full Las Vegas-style games” in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

The hospitality industry includes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hotels and motels where service occupations “account for almost two-thirds of the industry’s employment—by far the largest occupational group.”

These service jobs encompass maids and housekeeping cleaners; janitors and cleaners; waiters and waitresses, bartenders, fast food and counter workers, other kitchen and dining room workers; baggage porters and bellhops; gaming services workers; and grounds maintenance workers whose median hourly salary in 2008 went from $7.50 to $12.50.

“We have more jobs available,” Jay Mehta, a UNITE/HERE community organizer in South Florida, recently told The Florida Independent, “but there are also more people being put on state health care rolls because they can’t afford health care, and they are not offered any benefits, or they have two or three jobs, because you can’t sustain yourself at $8 an hour, with no benefits.”

Mehta said that UNITE/HERE has seen an increase in hospitality sector jobs, “but they typically are poorly paid jobs,” and state government “is taking advantage of this situation when it says these jobs are improving the economy.”

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s latest jobs report indicates that the state’s unemployment rate fell to 10.3 percent in the month of October, a 0.3 precent drop compared with September. The state added 9,500 jobs in October; 7,900 of those jobs were added in the administrative and waste services sector.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that administrative and waste services sector jobs include janitors and cleaners, laborers, freight movers, landscaping workers, office clerks and security guards, whose median yearly salary goes from $20,000 to $25,000.

The Orlando Sentinel reported last month that “Central Florida has spent 2011 slogging through a recessionary hangover on its way to adding almost 8,600 jobs during the past 12 months.”

According to the Sentinel, job growth has been concentrated in bars, restaurants, hotels and theme parks — which form the core of Central Florida’s economy.

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