Miami Beach commissioners show support for proposed minimum wage increase

Gradual rate hike may hurt hotel industry, small businesses

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Miami Beach commissioners Wednesday spoke in favor of a proposed minimum living wage increase sponsored by the mayor.

Commissioner Ricky Arrola called the proposal for a gradual increase over the next five years "a step in the right direction."

"One of the things myself and all the commissioners constantly hear is they can't live and work on Miami Beach, that it's too expensive," Mayor Philip Levine said.

Tourism is the lifeblood of Miami Beach, but the workers who keep things going are struggling to get by on less than $10 an hour.

Union leaders and members praised the proposal, which calls for raising hourly wages from $8.05 to $10.31 by next year and $13.31 by 2020.

Monica Russo, president of the Florida chapter of the Service Employees International Union, called the proposal "a huge step towards moving, lifting folks up out of poverty and allowing them to be full participants in our economy and in civic life."

"This is a big deal," she said.

But it may be too big and too fast for the hotel industry, which will bear the brunt of the wage hike, along with small businesses.

An unscientific survey of small business owners along Lincoln Road showed that they can accept a small hourly pay increase, but they said it will probably mean they'll have to lay off some workers.

"I think what we have to do is look at exemptions," Levine said. "One size may not fit all."

A final vote on whether to pass the proposal is expected in June.

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