Brandes is a long-time GOP member who also has leaned on his small-government Libertarian ethos to champion certain justice reforms. He had pushed for the original increase in the minimum hourly wage to $15, forced police to apply for warrants to search cellphone data, reduced the state’s usage of cash bail, and increased pre-arrest diversion programs. Yet now he is attempting to undermine Amendment 2.
The bill, introduced in January but not yet voted on by the state legislature at press time, is a proposal to “reduce the Minimum Wage rate for prisoners in the state correctional system, reduce the Minimum Wage rate for employees convicted of a felony, reduce the Minimum Wage rate for employees younger than 21 years of age, [and] reduce the Minimum Wage rate for other hard-to-hire employees.”
Brandes believes this will help alleviate unemployment. He says his bill would provide necessary job skills for the hard-to-hire. “This is really about allowing the legislature to offer a training wage and about recognizing that for the formerly incarcerated it’s sometimes difficult for them to compete with much more skilled workers for jobs,” he said.
Amendment 2 calls for the increase in minimum wage to be raised to $10 per hour this September and then $1 per hour each year thereafter until 2026. The amendment affects 2.5 million Floridians. A federal $15 minimum wage is being pushed by some members of Congress as well.
Opponents say the proposal will hurt small businesses, making them unable to hire workers at a time when they are already adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida currently has over 1.5 million residents with felony convictions, so, if passed, Brandes’ bill would have widespread negative impact.
Progressive Florida Representative Anna Eskamani said the measure would affect recidivism rates as well. “Instead of carving out ‘hard to hire employees’ from benefitting with an increase to the minimum wage we should help hard to hire employees be hirable,” she stated. “Automation is already here and yet we face many talent gaps in areas like construction and manufacturing. Let’s get folks trained and hired there, where they are needed. [It’s] pretty clear higher wages keep people out of prison, too.”
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