By Trimmel Gomes, of the Public News Service – FL
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Groups representing workers say it has been years since they’ve had an ally in the governor’s mansion – as such, they’ve unveiled “An Agenda for Florida’s Workers,” to serve as a roadmap of priority issues for the legislature and incoming governor.
This year’s agenda by groups such as the Miami Workers Center and Farmworker Association of Florida is quick to point out that while the state’s economy has been growing under Gov. Rick Scott, pay has been flat and living costs have been rising.
So they’ve outlined a list of 11 key priorities that current and future leaders should address.
Rich Templin, legislative and political director for the Florida AFL-CIO, says one of them has to do with repairing what he calls the state’s worst-in-the-nation unemployment insurance system.
“Unemployed workers, people who are unemployed through no fault of their own and desperately need these lifeline benefit payments, they don’t qualify for them because quite frankly the legislature working with the business community rigged the system so that no one would qualify,” he states.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which processes unemployment claims, defends the program by sending those in need to its website, floridajobs.org.
However, after major storms like Hurricane Irma, most Florida workers and businesses were unable to access disaster unemployment assistance.
The workers’ agenda also calls attention to empowering local communities to fight against preemption rules.
However, Moné Holder, senior program director of policy advocacy and research with the The New Florida Majority, says there was one issue that topped the workers’ collective agenda.
“Definitely wages and work condition,” she stresses. “You know workers, they work really hard to provide services for everyday people as well as to provide for their families and they should have the opportunity to have financial freedom as well a being protected and safe at work.”
The group says workers earning Florida’s minimum wage of $8.25 an hour barely make $17,000 a year, which is not enough to cover the basics in the state.
A recent survey published by Credit Loan showed Floridians support raising the minimum wage by nearly $4.
Other issues in “An Agenda for Florida’s Workers,” include protecting immigrant workers and expanding job opportunities for people with criminal records.