Miami Beach Makes Good on Living Wage Law

David Smiley
June 11, 2010
Miami Herald

Miami Beach's lowest paid employees will see a pay raise nearly a decade in the making after elected officials voted to obey the city's own laws and increase its living wage.

Commissioners unanimously agreed Wednesday to hike the minimum hourly wage payable to employees of the city and its major contractors by about $1.50 come Oct. 1.

By 2012, the $8.56 living wage rate for employees receiving health benefits should reach $11.28. Those without benefits will receive $12.92.

``We're doing what we have promised,'' said Commissioner Jerry Libbin.

In 2001, Miami Beach became the first city in the state to pass a living wage ordinance. The purpose of the law was to pay full-time employees enough to keep them above the federal poverty line and was celebrated as a progressive policy.

But the law also stated that the living wage must be increased each year to adjust for the cost of living. That never happened.

City Manager Jorge Gonzalez has said the failure to obey the law was a mistake and was not deliberate, but earlier this year a security guard threatened to sue unless the city increased the wage. The minimum wage in Florida and federally is $7.25 an hour.

The raises will cost the city about $1.3 million over three years.