Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Report on Florida Minimum Wage by Bruce Nissen

This post, by Mike Hall, is taken from the AFL-CIO blog. It gives details of a report prepared by Bruce Nissen, of Florida International University, that shows that the raise in the Florida minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.15 an hour, voted for by Floridians in 2004, has had no adverse impact on the economy. Bruce Nissen, as many of you will know, was a friend and supporter of the UM janitors during their recent strike.

We’re not in the business of saying “I told you so.” We’ll leave that to the union and community activists who convinced Florida voters in 2004 that raising the state’s minimum wage was the right thing to do.

While business groups and others launched a campaign to defeat the effort to raise the minimum wage, Florida activists repeatedly pointed out the economy will not suffer if low-wage workers get a raise.

A new study on the law’s impact, after voters approved boosting the wage from $5.15 to $6.15 an hour starting in May 2005, shows just how bogus the opponents’ arguments were. The higher wage also is tied to the cost of living, which increased it to $6.40 an hour in January.

“One year later, there appears to be no evidence supporting these claims” says the report, authored by University of Chicago professor H. Luke Shaefer and Florida International University’s (FIA’s) Dr. Bruce Nissen. It was commissioned by the Florida chapter of ACORN and FIA’s Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy.

Activists are mobilizing to raise the wage though legislation or ballot initiatives in more than 20 states—and the study provides another piece of credible evidence that raising the minimum wage is a win-win for communities.

The Florida study follows another recent report that found that small businesses job growth was higher in states with a minimum wage greater than the $5.15 federal level, which hasn’t been increased since 1997.

During the campaign, the Florida Retail Association claimed “jobs will be lost—devastating our strong economy.” Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Sen. Mel Martinez (R) weighed in against the pay raise. Grover Norquist, the extremist Republican policymaker behind paycheck deception, Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) and other state campaigns aimed at crippling working people, claimed “Florida cannot afford the economic pain,” of raising the minimum wage.

The report, The Florida Minimum Wage After One Year, examined the state’s employment rate, economic performance, low-wage industries and other economic indicators and found:
Far from having a devastated economy, Florida continues to experience record job growth. Instead of businesses leaving the state, the number of private employers in Florida has grown substantially in the past year, and the state is a national leader in the insourcing of jobs from overseas. Far from workers losing their jobs and being worse off, more of them are working and wages across the state have risen.

Click here to read the full report.

At the federal level, House Democrats are moving to bring a minimum wage bill to the floor that Republican leaders repeatedly have blocked. The legislation (H.R. 2429) introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) would raise the rate to $7.25 an hour over two years. Because the bill has been blocked, backers need a “discharge petition,” which requires the signatures of 218 House members.

Click here to urge your representative to sign the petition.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) has introduced the Senate version (S. 1062), and you can click here to become a citizen co-sponsor.

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