Labor & Economy

Florida’s favorable climate and welcoming business environment make it an attractive home for workers and businesses alike. However, income inequality is at an all-time high in Florida – the the top 1 percent earns an average of $1.5 million while the bottom 99 percent earn an average of $34,000. Workers in the Orlando metro area – which includes Seminole County – typically earn wages that are 13 percent lower than the national average.  Many low-wage jobs are found in Florida’s tourism industry, which brings $67.2 billion to our economy each year and generates 23 percent of our state’s tax revenue. Yet our workers are not seeing the benefits of this prosperity — especially women. Here in Seminole County, men earn nearly $15,000 more than women, with the highest disparity seen in management positions. We must offer women equal pay and allow greater flexibility for working parents.

My first job was at a fast food restaurant making $4.75 per hour. Food wasn’t provided at work, so I would routinely pay more than an hour’s worth of pay on my lunch. Since then, the minimum wage in Florida has only modestly risen to $8.25 per hour. No one should have to work multiple jobs simply to keep the electricity on or provide food for his or her family — that is why I support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. A living wage in Seminole County for 1 adult with no children is nearly $12 per hour, assuming he or she is working full time. When you consider the rise in part-time employment and add children and significant others to the equation, a living wage is well over $15 per hour. In addition to raising wages across the board, we must expand training for skilled workers through trade programs. I believe an educated workforce is a prosperous one, and specialized training can give workers the upward mobility they need to succeed.

We can implement these changes by making a modest adjustment to our state corporate tax level, which would still allow corporations to benefit from Florida’s business-friendly rates. When corporations pay their fair share in taxes, we will have more resources to better our communities. I will fight to dismantle laws in this state that allow our citizens to be fired without reason and needlessly dissuade workers from organizing and earning a living wage. Unions that fight for workers’ rights must be supported to counter the influence of wealthy corporate lobbyists.

Together, we can build an economy where hard-working Floridians can pay their bills and have a positive work-life balance. A family can realize their dream of owning a home while a small business owner can find the workers needed to grow their company. We will harness the power of solar capital, strengthen our ports, and ensure Florida remains a center of global commerce for many years to come.