MIAMI, FL— An already high cost of living has skyrocketed in Miami-Dade. As Miamians are faced with rising rent, low-wage immigrant workers are some of the most impacted. Now, as Miami Dade residents are working to recover what was lost from the pandemic, Florida State legislators have proposed legislation that could cut their wages to $10.00 an hour.
After years of advocacy by South Florida’s hospitality workers’ union, UNITE HERE Local 355, enacted a living wage of $17.62 per hour—$14.03 in wages plus $3.59 for health insurance—for all airport workers at MIA with the support of the Miami-Dade County Commission and Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. Since then, Local 355 has been pushing to protect wages as state legislators in Tallahassee propose to eliminate the County requirement through a so-called preemption bill SB1124/HB943. If passed, this law would make most living wage requirements in Miami-Dade County and other Florida counties unenforceable, including living wage requirements currently covering airport concessions workers in Miami-Dade and Broward.
Union leaders have been meeting with legislators to explain why the preemption bill is bad for workers who are also constituents. If SB1124/HB943 is passed, Miami-Dade County could not require employers to pay more than the current $10 an hour state minimum wage.
“State legislators are threatening to take money directly out of the pockets of the people who have showed up to work throughout the roller coasters of this pandemic,” said Wendi Walsh, Secretary-Treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 355. “We know no one can sustain themselves or their families on $10. Most union workers will be protected by wages secured in their contract, but this will be devastating for non-union workers,” Walsh added.
Hospitality workers are speaking up. Rose Marcelin, who has been a cook at HMS Host Jose Cuervo at Miami International Airport for 20 years, says, “I’m a single mother of three. Miami is an expensive city and cost of living has gone up drastically. All my money goes towards my bills. I’ve worked at the airport for 20 years—the living wage is the minimum I should earn. I need it. My coworkers need it. I’m going to do everything I can from here to Tallahassee to protect it.”