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Op-Ed By Jared Meyers
Orlando Sentinel, Oct 17, 2020

People are at the center of the hospitality business. How we treat people matters every day — from our employees to our community to our guests.

That’s why I support Amendment 2, the ballot measure to gradually raise Florida’s minimum wage. No one in the hospitality industry or any other industry should be working full-time and struggling just to keep a roof overhead and food on the table. There’s nothing hospitable about that.

Anyone working full-time should be able to afford their most basic needs of food, housing and other essentials. They should not have to juggle two jobs, borrow money, or need government assistance just to scrape by. Florida’s minimum wage of $8.56 per hour falls woefully short.

According to recent surveys by Just Capital and the Harris Poll, 92% of Americans believe business should promote an economy that serves all Americans and they identified “paying a livable wage” as the most important way to do that.

At my business, Legacy Vacation Resorts, we are committed to paying a living wage, so employees currently make at least $13.05 an hour. It’s good for our employees and it’s good for our business.

We know that employees are more committed, engaged and focused on delivering exceptional customer service and achieving company goals when they are not distracted by working a second job or subject to constant financial pressure. We also know that today’s customers expect responsible business practices.

Florida has been hit hard by the pandemic. We’re counting more than ever on grocery store workers, delivery drivers, health care workers, cleaning staff and other essential workers. Too many of them make minimum wage or not much more. Too many of them are working hard but can’t make ends meet. This places the provision of these essential functions at risk and when businesses don’t pay livable wages, it puts great pressure on the taxpayer-funded public safety net to subsidize their low wages to fill the gap.

We’ve got to do better for the sake of our workers, our businesses and our communities. Raising the minimum wage will help us build a stronger and more resilient economy.

Soon, we will welcome back many more vacationers and revitalize our hospitality businesses. I know our economy will be stronger when Florida’s workers are paid enough to afford what our local businesses are offering.

Amendment 2 is about the future. It does not raise the minimum wage tomorrow. Businesses will have time to adjust as increases are phased in over six years. The first step comes a year from now, when the minimum wage increases to $10 on Sept. 30, 2021. It would then increase by $1 each year until reaching $15 on Sept. 30, 2026.

Every step of the way, raising the minimum wage will help businesses because more money to employees means putting more money in the pockets of your customers.

Indeed, the minimum wage was first enacted during the Great Depression with the dual purpose of lifting workers out of poverty and boosting the consumer buying power that businesses depend on to survive and succeed.

It was the right thing to do then and it’s the right thing to do now.

My companies and the organization I co-founded, Florida for Good, have joined with many others in the Florida Business for a Fair Minimum Wage coalition. There is strong business support for raising the minimum wage across the state and across industries — from hospitality to manufacturing; from big companies to the small businesses that are such a vibrant part of our local communities.

Amendment 2 will put Florida’s minimum wage on the path to a living wage, which is fundamentally good business. When wages go up, there is not only more consumer spending, businesses experience lower turnover (cutting down the costs of hiring and training employees), and businesses see increased productivity and better customer service.

Amendment 2 will help us build a more resilient post-pandemic economy that is more equitable, inclusive and sustainable.

We have a path laid out for shared recovery and shared prosperity. We just need to walk it together.

Jared Meyers is owner of Legacy Vacation Resorts (which includes locations in Orlando and Kissimmee) and Salt Palm Development in St. Petersburg. He is also co-founder of Florida for Good.

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Copyright 2020 Jared Meyers