Legislators in Fla/Ariz Want to Lower Minimum Wage

Republican lawmakers in Arizona and Florida are pushing for legislation that would lower the legal minimum wage for tipped workers such as restaurant servers. The legislation in Arizona goes a step further in that it would also lower the minimum wage for younger part-time workers.

The Arizona proposal, HCR 2056, would allow employers to pay a teenage worker $3 less than the current minimum wage if the worker is either part-time or a temp. The Arizona minimum wage is $7.65, forty cents more than the federal rate. If the proposal is approved teenagers could end up being paid $4.65 per hour.

Employers who must pay tipped employees would be able to lower their workers pay by more than $2 per hour. The minimum wage for servers and other tipped workers in Arizona is $4.65 an hour. If a worker’s tips don’t add up to the normal minimum wage of $7.65, the employer must cover the difference, a stipulation that would not change with the legislation.

In Florida the Tourism and Commerce committee is considering giving businesses the option of dropping the state minimum wage for servers, currently $4.65, in favor of the lower federal one of $2.13. However, if the employer opts for the lower wage and the employee doesn’t earn at least $9.98 per hour after tips, the employer would have to make up the difference.

Advocacy groups have denounced the proposed legislation in Florida as an attack on low-wage workers. Members of the Florida AFL-CIO have been leaving literature on restaurant tables to inform servers of the potential changes, and the group also put together a protest outside an Outback Steakhouse in Miami Lakes. To mock the minimum wage they described as being from a long gone era they encouraged attendees to dress in 1980’s garb.

Outback Steakhouse’s parent company, OSI Restaurant Partners, supports the Florida measure.

The Tampa-based company, which lists Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill among its holdings, donated more than $120,000 last year to 32 Republicans running for state office.

Carol Dover, president of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, told The Huffington Post that the proposal under consideration has been mischaracterized.

“There appears to be confusion as to the legislation,” said Dover, whose trade group supports the proposal. “No one is having their wages cut. Employees are being guaranteed 130% of the state minimum wage if the employer elects to offer that option.”

Rich Templin, legislative and political director of the Florida AFL-CIO, says that the measure would let employers save money at workers’ expense.

“We believe that many people in the legislature, from both sides of the aisle, once they understand what it’s about will not be supportive of this,” says Templin. “It really is a pretty despicable idea.”

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