On the steps of city hall, about 20 Gainesville residents declared that a 5-cent increase to the state’s minimum wage wasn’t enough.
Fight for 15 Florida — an advocacy group funded by workers unions — and the Alachua County Labor Coalition gathered outside the building to speak about why the wage increase, from $8.05 to $8.10 an hour, is too small and why a $15 minimum wage should be implemented instead.
The demonstration came a day after Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity announced Monday that the minimum wage would increase.
Adriel Coker, a member of Fight for 15 Florida, spoke at the podium between signs reading “We Demand $15 and Union Rights” and “Exigimos $15 y una unión.” Coker said he knew many workers struggling under the $8.05 minimum wage — a struggle that 5 cents couldn’t improve.
“(The) majority of them, they couldn’t afford to take care of their families,” he said. “As long as we have some of us who aren’t doing well, then none of us are doing well.”
Coker came to Gainesville from Orlando with other members of the Fight for 15 group to express their concerns over what he called a negligible hike, he said.
“We heard that they were only going to raise the minimum wage by 5 cents,” he said. “I really felt like it was an insult.”
Other speakers and attendees included Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell, Alachua County School Board member Eileen Roy and Marihelen Wheeler, who is running for the Florida House of Representatives District 21 seat. Wheeler, a former teacher, said her support for a $15 minimum wage is rooted in her desire to help children being raised in poverty.
“They are neglected in this whole formula because their basic needs are not being met,” she said. Raising the minimum wage, she said, “would bring their families out of poverty.”
The Alachua County Labor Coalition wants to implement a minimum wage close to $15 an hour over the course of the next five years, according to Alligator archives. Jeremiah Tattersall, a member of the coalition, said the current minimum wage disproportionately affects minority communities.
“It’s not a mistake that these workers tend to be people of color, queer workers, transgender workers: our immigrant brothers and sisters,” he said. “All work matters, and all workers deserve a living wage.”
But if workers have to maintain multiple jobs, then the current minimum wage sets a negative connotation for the types of jobs they’re holding, he said.
“It says that their work doesn’t matter,” Tattersall said.