On NovemĀberĀ 3, Floridaās politĀiĀcalĀly diverse elecĀtorateĀ showed resoundĀingĀ supportĀ for AmendĀmentĀ 2, an iniĀtiaĀtive to gradĀuĀalĀly raise the state minĀiĀmum wage from $8.56Ā an hour to $15Ā byĀ 2026. This makes FloriĀda the eighth state nationĀwide, and the first state in the South, to get on track towards a $15Ā minĀiĀmumĀ wage.
This vicĀtoĀry conĀtrasts sharply with the loss of Biden in the state, as well as sigĀnifĀiĀcant lossĀes for the state DemoĀcĀraĀtĀic ParĀty. The activists behind AmendĀment 2 say their camĀpaign offers lessons for how proĀgresĀsive ideas can win the day by priĀorĀiĀtizĀing improvĀing the mateĀrĀiĀal conĀdiĀtions of workĀers, and speak directĀly to the hardĀship that peoĀple face.
āFar too many workĀing peoĀple in FloriĀda do critĀiĀcal work to keep our comĀmuĀniĀties going but are underĀpaid and underĀvalĀued, often bareĀly makĀing enough to get by,ā said Esther SeguĀra, a JackĀson Health SysĀtem nurse and union memĀber with the FloriĀda for $15 coaliĀtion, a netĀwork of labor, racial, ecoĀnomĀic jusĀtice and grassĀroots orgaĀniĀzaĀtions statewide. ?āWe call them essenĀtial workĀers, and now itās clear the majorĀiĀty of FloriĀda votĀers agree that itās time to pay them the wages they deserve!ā
A vicĀtoĀry for workers
AmendĀment 2, known as the Fair Wage IniĀtiaĀtive, faced a difĀfiĀcult terĀrain, includĀing oppoĀsiĀtion from the FloriĀda ChamĀber of ComĀmerce, the NationĀal RestauĀrant AssoĀciĀaĀtion, and the anti-AmendĀment 2 PAC Save FloriĀda Jobsāwhich warned votĀers of disĀasĀtrous effects on Floridaās small busiĀness ownĀers and ecoĀnomĀic recovĀery. Yet, the iniĀtiaĀtive secured 60.8% approval among FloriĀda votĀers, just bareĀly meetĀing the 60% threshĀold needĀed to pass.
Under AmendĀment 2, the wage floor will increase to $10 next SepĀtemĀber and rise in $1 increĀments each year until reachĀing $15 on SepĀtemĀber 30, 2026. For tipped employĀees, wages will increase from $5.54 to $11.98 by 2026. OrlanĀdo attorĀney and milĀlionĀaire John MorĀgan, who bankrolled Floridaās balĀlot meaĀsure to legalĀize medĀical marĀiĀjuaĀna in 2016, poured milĀlions of dolĀlars into Floridaās AmendĀment 2 camĀpaign, charĀacĀterĀizĀing it as ?āa vote of moralĀiĀty and compassion.ā
RoughĀly 2.5 milĀlion workĀers are expectĀed to see a pay increase next SepĀtemĀber, includĀing 38% of women of colĀor in the workĀforce, accordĀing to a report from the left-leanĀing FloriĀda PolĀiĀcy InstiĀtute. Black and LatĀinx women?ā?who in the UnitĀed States earn 63 cents and 55 cents on the white, male dolĀlar respecĀtiveĀly?ā?are expectĀed to see the greatĀest gains from Floridaās wage bump.
For those who orgaĀnized around Floridaās AmendĀment 2 across the state, the benĀeĀfits of raisĀing wages werenāt a hard sell. IndiĀvidĀuĀals with FloriĀda for $15 sent more than 3.1 milĀlion texts to votĀers ahead of ElecĀtion Day, and supĀportĀed a numĀber of workĀer strikes and car carĀaĀvans led by FloriĀda fast food and airĀport workĀers. The effort also garĀnered the involveĀment of forĀmerĀly incarĀcerĀatĀed workĀers like Alex HarĀris, a 24-year-old WafĀfle House workĀer and Fight for $15 leader. ā[Floridaās curĀrent minĀiĀmum wage] is just a way to keep peoĀple incarĀcerĀatĀed, to keep them strugĀgling, and to keep them from being free,ā HarĀris said, durĀing an OctoĀber Fight for $15 ralĀly in TamĀpa, FloriĀda. HarĀris, a returnĀing citĀiĀzen who regained his right to vote with Floridaās 2018 AmendĀment 4 balĀlot meaĀsure, vocalĀized the need for votĀers to show up for AmendĀment 2 throughĀout the campaign.
DisĀapĀpointĀing results for Democrats
Yet, the Biden camĀpaign did not fare as well. In someĀthing of an upset, Biden?ā?who had quiĀetĀly endorsed a $15 fedĀerĀal minĀiĀmum wage as part of his ecoĀnomĀic platĀform?ā?lost to Trump in FloriĀda by roughĀly 370,000 votes, underĀperĀformĀing with the stateās diverse LatĀinx and HisĀpanĀic comĀmuĀniĀties in counĀties like MiaĀmi-Dade, where RepubĀliĀcans put a lot of enerĀgy into ?āsocialĀistā fear-mongering.
There was a sharp disĀcrepĀanĀcy between FloriĀda votĀersā overĀwhelmĀing supĀport for a $15 minĀiĀmum wage and a lack of supĀport for Biden, who received more than one milĀlion less votes than AmendĀment 2. (Trump also paled in popĀuĀlarĀiĀty to Floridaās minĀiĀmum wage iniĀtiaĀtive, trailĀing its powĀerĀhouse base of supĀport by more than 700,000 votes.)
Biden wasnāt the only perĀson who faced defeat. Floridaās state DemoĀcĀraĀtĀic ParĀty also sufĀfered a sigĀnifĀiĀcant blow on ElecĀtion Day. DemocĀrats lost five seats in the state House, and in MiaĀmi, RepubĀliĀcans have forced at least one state SenĀate race to a recount.
But despite talk that FloriĀda has offiĀcialĀly joined the countryās ?āred states,ā FloriĀda memĀbers of the DemoĀcĀraĀtĀic SocialĀists of AmerĀiĀca (DSA) who were activeĀly involved in the FloriĀda for $15 coaliĀtion are less cynĀiĀcal about the potenĀtial of Floridaās mulĀtiraĀcial workĀing class majorĀiĀty. The memĀbers of DSA, the largest socialĀist orgaĀniĀzaĀtion in the counĀtry, have their own ideas for why Biden?ā?and state DemocĀrats more broadĀly?ā?failed to garĀner the same sucĀcess as Floridaās minĀiĀmum wage amendment.
Kofi Hunt, a co-chair of the PinelĀlas CounĀty chapĀter of DSA, says the FloriĀda for $15 camĀpaign was unapoloĀgetĀiĀcalĀly pro-workĀer in its mesĀsagĀing and spoke directĀly to the strugĀgles of Floridaās workĀing class. Hunt argues that the stateās mulĀtiraĀcial workĀing-class base more broadĀly didnāt get a staunch pro-workĀer mesĀsage from either Trump or Biden, but conĀcedes that the latĀter offered more of a workĀer-friendĀly platĀform. But Hunt and othĀers involved in the FloriĀda for $15 coaliĀtion argue Bidenās most pro-workĀer poliĀcies?ā?such as uniĀverĀsal pre-KinderĀgarten and a fedĀerĀal minĀiĀmum wage boost?ā?didnāt get the kind of limeĀlight that could have benĀeĀfitĀted him more on the camĀpaign trail in Florida.
āThe presĀiĀdenĀtial elecĀtion was largeĀly about defeatĀing Trump and not what Joe Biden would do for workĀing peoĀple,ā says Richie Floyd, a PinelĀlas DSA orgaĀnizĀer and labor activist who conĀtributed to FloriĀda for $15 efforts. ?āDurĀing trips to FloriĀda, Biden played ?āDespaciĀtoā on his phone and panĀdered to right-wing votĀers in MiaĀmi. This stratĀeĀgy comĀpleteĀly failed as we can see from the results out of Miami-Dade.ā
TalkĀing to the workĀing class
The FloriĀda for $15 camĀpaign, on the othĀer hand, emphaĀsized the strugĀgles of Floridaās workĀing famĀiĀlies?ā?such as unafĀfordĀable healthĀcare, childĀcare and housĀing?ā?and underĀscored how achievĀing highĀer wages could directĀly address those conĀcerns. ?āIt was about telling workĀing peoĀple across the state that there is a real choice on the balĀlot that can improve peoĀpleās lives immeĀdiĀateĀly. It was about focusĀing on what we can offer and how we can make lives betĀter,ā says Floyd.
MeanĀwhile, as RepubĀliĀcan-friendĀly corĀpoĀraĀtions like PubĀlix?ā?a southĀern groĀcery chain based in FloriĀda?ā?reportĀed more than $11.1 billion in sales revĀenue this quarĀter, everyĀday FloridĀiĀans have been left to grapĀple with the stateās broĀken unemĀployĀment sysĀtem and the deadĀly misĀmanĀageĀment of the coroĀnĀavirus panĀdemĀic by RepubĀliĀcan GovĀerĀnor Ron DeSantis.
While Hunt says DemocĀrats genĀerĀalĀly do a betĀter job speakĀing to the needs of marĀginĀalĀized popĀuĀlaĀtions, the ?ātug of warā between the corĀpoĀrate and proĀgresĀsive wings of the parĀty makes it difĀfiĀcult to comĀmuĀniĀcate a conĀvincĀing, uniĀfyĀing mesĀsage for Floridaās workĀing-class base?ā?parĀticĀuĀlarĀly the stateās poor Black and Brown communities.
Instead of workĀing to meet these comĀmuĀniĀties where theyāre at, Hunt says many FloriĀda DemocĀrats scramĀbled to panĀder to subĀurĀbanĀites and adopt conĀserĀvĀaĀtive posiĀtions more broadĀly, to make themĀselves more appealĀing to RepubĀliĀcans who already show up to the balĀlot box.
Floyd agrees with Huntās assessĀment. ?āIf the FloriĀda and NationĀal DemoĀcĀraĀtĀic parĀties want to be sucĀcessĀful here, then they need to realĀize that focusĀing on the ecoĀnomĀic plight of the mulĀti-racial workĀing class is the only way forĀward,ā he says. ?āTo win, we have to focus on the needs of the workĀing class, and not the donor class.ā
CarĀmen Laguer Diaz, a leader of the SEIU FloriĀda PubĀlic SecĀtor Union and an adjunct facĀulĀty proĀfesĀsor at ValenĀcia ColĀlege in OrlanĀdo, also believes thereās a need to idenĀtiĀfy comĀmonĀalĀiĀties between workĀing indiĀvidĀuĀals?ā?like the appeal of highĀer wages?ā?and cross-culĀturĀal mesĀsagĀing. ?āItās not about parĀty. Itās about workĀers. Itās about all of us,ā she said.
FloriĀda for $15 coaliĀtion partĀners arenāt alone in their critĀiĀcisms. State Rep. Anna EskaĀmani (D?Orlando)?ā?a proĀgresĀsive who easĀiĀly secured a secĀond term in the FloriĀda House on NovemĀber 3?ā?is one of sevĀerĀal FloriĀda DemocĀrats who has been openĀly critĀiĀcal of the state parĀty since ElecĀtion Day, parĀticĀuĀlarĀly of the failĀure of corĀpoĀrate DemocĀrats to delivĀer anyĀthing more appealĀing than vague promisĀes for ?āchange.ā
āEveryĀthing is conĀnectĀed, and I think that the DemoĀcĀraĀtĀic ParĀty did a very, very poor job of demonĀstratĀing those conĀnecĀtions and anchorĀing the [AmendĀment 2] issue with our canĀdiĀdate [Joe Biden],ā says EskaĀmani. ?āAnd of course, itās often due to corĀpoĀrate influĀence. You know, many of the corĀpoĀraĀtions that were against AmendĀment 2 write checks to DemocĀrats. And thatās a probĀlem, because then you end up havĀing top DemocĀrats, who had been brandĀed as leadĀing the parĀty, expressĀing lukeĀwarm senĀtiĀments about AmendĀment 2, when we all should be ralĀlyĀing around it and liftĀing up the voicĀes of our directĀly impactĀed people.ā
DemoĀcĀraĀtĀic State Sen. Annette TadĀdeo, who repĀreĀsents parts of MiaĀmi-Dade CounĀty, also expressed being unimĀpressed with Bidenās ground-game down south. ?āYou need a conĀstant presĀence, and you canĀnot take minorĀiĀty comĀmuĀniĀties for grantĀed,ā she told AP News in a NovemĀber 4 artiĀcle. ?āYou canāt come in two months before an elecĀtion and expect to excite these communities.ā
FloriĀda DemocĀrats who refuse to embrace proĀgresĀsive meaĀsures like Medicare for All (which has majorĀiĀty supĀport nationĀwide) and the Green New Deal proĀposĀal claim that itās a politĀiĀcal liaĀbilĀiĀty to camĀpaign on these poliĀcies in swing states. ForĀmer guberĀnaĀtoĀrĀiĀal canĀdiĀdate Andrew Gillum, for instance, faced anti-socialĀist red baitĀing when he camĀpaigned on Medicare for All in FloriĀda in 2018. So did Biden this elecĀtion cycle, for that matĀter, despite denouncĀing socialĀism at every turn.
But activists says retĀiĀcence to embrace left ideas is misĀguidĀed, even in areas like MiaĀmi-Dade where demoĀcĀraĀtĀic socialĀists are well-aware of the uphill batĀtle they face in addressĀing the bagĀgage of the ?āsocialĀistā label. CanĀdiĀdates across the counĀtry who backed proĀgresĀsive posiĀtions like the Green New Deal perĀformed exceedĀingĀly well. SocialĀist canĀdiĀdates and meaĀsures also faced conĀsidĀerĀable sucĀcess on ElecĀtion Day: As Mindy IssĀer reportĀed for In These Times, DSA ?āendorsed 29 canĀdiĀdates and 11 balĀlot iniĀtiaĀtives, winĀning 20 and 8 respecĀtiveĀly,ā includĀing Floridaās $15 minĀiĀmum wage initiative.
āBidenās camĀpaign, and most DemoĀcĀraĀtĀic statewide camĀpaigns before him in the past 20 years, have nevĀer laid out a coherĀent platĀform to workĀing class votĀers here [in FloriĀda],ā says OrlanĀdo DSA orgaĀnizĀer and FloriĀda for $15 coaliĀtion partĀner Grayson LanĀza. ?āBeing the parĀty of ?āalso not socialĀistā and nothĀing else is clearĀly not working.ā
While some argue that a $15 minĀiĀmum wage isnāt going far enough?ā?espeĀcialĀly by the time we reach 2026?ā?this initiativeās pasĀsage sigĀniĀfies more than just a wage increase. It demonĀstrates the popĀuĀlarĀiĀty of poliĀcies that stand to benĀeĀfit the workĀing-class majorĀiĀty across the ideĀoĀlogĀiĀcal specĀtrum, and shows FloriĀda workĀers are motiĀvatĀed to orgaĀnize around issues that are perĀtiĀnent to their mateĀrĀiĀal conĀdiĀtions. As Floyd puts it, ?āThis could bode well for future labor vicĀtoĀries, as I am hopeĀful that politiĀcians will see that workĀers rights is a winĀning issue, and take action accordingly.ā
This blog originally appeared atĀ In These TimesĀ on November 13, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mckenna Schueler is aĀ freeĀlance writer based in TamĀpa, FloriĀda. She is an avid readĀer and conĀsumer of podĀcasts who writes about local news, polĀiĀtics, and menĀtal health. She has had work pubĀlished in CreĀative LoafĀing TamĀpa Bay, OrlanĀdo WeekĀly, the Health at Every SizeĀ® blog, and McSweeneyās InterĀnet TenĀdenĀcy. You can find her on TwitĀter @SheCarriesOn.