ORLANDO, Florida (WESH) — Last November, 61% of Florida voters approved an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour beginning this September, with a one dollar per year raise to $15 in 2026.
Republican state senator Jeff Brandes has filed a measure to put a new Amendment on the ballot next year that would allow employers to pay some workers less than minimum wage.
“What this tries to address is those who can’t find a job at the minimum wage, who are low skilled or of another class that are hard to hire,” Brandes said.
Brandes calls the lower-than-minimum, a “training wage” for unskilled workers.
Employers would legally be allowed to pay anyone under the age of 21, parolees in the State Prison system, former convicted felons, and other so-called “hard-to-hire” employees less than coworkers doing the same jobs.
“Isn’t that discrimination?” WESH 2’s Greg Fox asked.
“No, because you’re — first, you’re — There’s a couple of things going on here,” Brandes said. “The goal here is not to push anybody down. The goal here is to add another rung to the ladder to help them succeed.”
“Once again they are trying to attack the people at the bottom of the ladder,” Desmond Meade said.
Meade is head of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, which persuaded voters in 2018 to approve an amendment restoring voting rights to former felons. He says the Brandes measure makes it even harder for former felons to earn enough to pay back their fees and fines to vote.
“This policy is a horrible policy. I think this proposal definitely flies in the face of conventional wisdom,” Meade said.
Democratic lawmaker Anna Eskamani says the measure also ignores the fact, that many under the age of 21 are homeless students attending college, living in their cars, or at home helping to support families.
“It’s really disappointing to see this coming from someone who has championed criminal justice issues and I really hope it doesn’t go anywhere this session,” Eskamani said.
So far, the resolution from Brandes has no co-sponsor in the House.
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