Florida's most significant minimum wage increase in years is about to take effect, and it's completely meaningless


  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
On Jan. 1, 2019, Florida's minimum wage will see its most dramatic increase since 2012, a bump of 21 whole cents.

This increase brings Florida's minimum wage from $8.25 to $8.46 per hour, and for tipped employees of large employers their wages will jump from $5.23 to $5.44 per hour.

Though Florida's minimum wage is $1.21 higher than the federal minimum wage for 2019, which is $7.25 per hour, and obviously any increase is a step in the right direction, it doesn't by any means reflect a "living wage" for Florida residents, especially in Orlando, and can only be taken as a profound "fuck you" to the workforce.

To put this increase into perspective, the 21 cent boost adds an extra $437 annually, and brings the annual income of a family of four to $17,597 before taxes, which is far below the federal poverty level of $25,100.

This wouldn't be such a huge issue, if Orlando weren't so incredibly flush with low-paying jobs that offer little to no upward mobility. According to a recent report from the Pew Trust, Orlando is experiencing a significant population boom, which is great, but it also isn't adding enough high-paying jobs, which is bad.

In fact, the Orlando metro area saw a 51 percent increase in population over the last 17 years, but only a 5 percent increase in income. This horrid stat places Orlando among other booming cities with low wages like Las Vegas, Atlanta and Reno. Other Florida cities like Sarasota, Ocala, and Lakeland are in the same boat.

As you can see in the graphic below, Florida has a serious wage problem.
  • Graphic via Pew Trust
It's not looking like it's getting any better, especially when you consider Orlando's dependency on tourism and the inherent risks of automation. According to a study from the Institute for Spacial Economic Analysis, Orlando is the seventh most at risk metro area in the country for jobs being replaced by machines.

Sure, significant wage improvements have happened, but they fall way short of being even remotely impactful. Last October, Disney World and its unions agreed to increase wages to $15 an hour by 2021. Other companies followed suit, Amazon agreed to raise the wages of their minimum wage employees to $15 an hour starting in November, and both Universal and SeaWorld agreed to nominal wage increases.

While $15 an hour seems great, and is certainly better than $8.46, it's still not enough for many Orlando residents to afford even the most basic needs.

If you work 40 hours per week, $15 an hour equals about $31,200 a year before taxes. However, a study released last summer from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition found that renters in the Orlando metro area need to make at least $16.33 an hour (or $33,960 a year) to afford even the most basic studio apartment and not be "rent burdened," which means you spend most of your check on rent rather than food, healthcare, transportation, daycare, savings, etc.

To pile it on, a report released last September by the real estate website Zillow found that Orlando's lower-paid workers, the ones who absolutely need affordable housing, are spending more than 64 percent of their income on housing, which is absolutely insane.

But it's not just low-paid workers who are screwed. A 2016 study from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing also found that nearly half of Orlando residents are renters who straight-up can't afford rent. HALF.

So, until wages start keeping pace with population growth and housing costs, 21 cents in a state like Florida doesn't mean shit.

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