Tampa Bay Creative Loafing: Tampa Bay is getting a minimum wage boost on Thursday, and it’s about damn time

By McKenna Schueler
Tampa Bay Creative Loafing, Sep 28, 2021

After becoming the first state in the South to get on track toward a $15 minimum wage last year, Florida’s gearing up for its biggest minimum wage increase in over a decade.

Effective Sept. 30, Florida’s minimum wage will rise from its current $8.65 per hour to $10 an hour, or $6.98 plus tips for tipped employees. ... According to the nonpartisan Florida Policy Institute, an estimated 646,000 working Floridians will see their wages rise starting Thursday. By 2026, that number is expected to reach 2.5 million, or 25% of Florida’s workforce ...

‘It’s good business’ to raise wages for workers

... Leigh Anne Balzekas, a co-owner of The Disco Dolls in Seminole Heights, told CL that all of her shop’s employees make a minimum of $15 an hour ...

The Disco Dolls is, in Balzekas’ own words, a sustainably-focused hair, art, and fashion boutique that she co-owns with her sister. They offer hair services, have an ethically-made clothing line, and have a revolving local art gallery in-house.

Last year, The Disco Dolls became one of more than 150 Florida businesses who joined the Florida Business for a Fair Minimum Wage coalition in support of Amendment 2. ...

As a small business owner, Balzekas rejects the notion that fair wages for workers hurts small businesses. On the contrary, she said respecting the time and work of her staff has helped them retain and attract new workers, and ultimately helps their business. “What’s actually affecting small businesses negatively is having that lower minimum wage,” she said. “My customers are my community...and if they’re making more money, they’re spending it here and we’re keeping it local.”

As for the business leaders, and organizations like the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, which contends that higher wages would kill jobs and crush small business owners’ prospects? 

“Maybe you need to look at how you’re doing business,” Balkezas advised ... “Money is not pie,” she said. There’s more because people are putting it into the economy. And it’s just “good business” to raise the minimum wage, she said, adding that she and her sister will be looking to increase their staffs’ minimum hourly rate in the near future.

Balzekas isn’t the only local small business owner who supports a $15 minimum wage. Danielle Ferrari, owner of Tampa’s Valhalla Resale, also thinks a $15 minimum wage for workers is good for business—and backs that up with her own starting pay of $15 for her clothing resale shop’s employees. “It’s human rights,” Ferrari told CL, first and foremost. 

But not only that, it also helps you get more customers. “From a policy standpoint, it’s really important for your business to be able to have customers that make more money than they did last week,” Ferrari said.

In business since 2017, Ferrari told CL she currently employs just two staff members, herself not included, and has never paid workers less than $14 an hour. In contrast to reports of a labor shortage circulating in Florida and nationwide this year, Ferrari said she experienced the exact opposite when she started searching for a new hire after the vaccine rollout. “I had double the amount of applicants,” she said. ...

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Copyright 2021 Euclid Media Group


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