Florida voters approve a $15 minimum wage

California voters also approved a measure allowing delivery drivers to continue to be classified as independent contractors.
Florida minimum wage
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 2020 presidential election is apparently far from being decided. But a number of states approved ballot measures that could have a significant impact on the restaurant industry.

That includes Florida, where voters approved a constitutional amendment calling for a $15 minimum wage. In California, voters allowed third-party delivery companies and ride-sharing services to continue classifying drivers as independent contractors. And several states passed ballot measures decriminalizing the use of marijuana.

Here’s a rundown of some of the election results from Tuesday.

Florida’s minimum wage

Florida residents narrowly approved a ballot proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026, making the Sunshine State the first in the South and the eighth nationwide to move toward what labor advocates have dubbed a living wage.

The increase from Florida’s current legal minimum of $8.46 an hour is projected to bump up the wages of 2.5 million workers, starting with a rise to $10 an hour on Sept. 30. The pay floor will then climb $1 an hour every Sept. 30 thereafter until it hits $15 in 2026. Afterward, the minimum will rise or fall automatically in accordance with changes in the Consumer Price Index.

The initiative had been closely watched by small-business lobbyists throughout the South because Florida has a decidedly conservative record on worker benefits and other social measures. It is also a bellwether for many neighboring states because of the jobs it has created through rapid economic growth. Many see it as a magnet for workers in a large geographic swathe.

The neighboring states of Georgia and Alabama both have a $7.25 minimum hourly wage.

Labor advocates hailed the vote as a major victory for hourly workers in the state and possibly beyond.

“We turned cheers for essential workers who have risked their lives during the pandemic while being paid poverty wages, into power,” Faith Booker, an employee of a McDonald’s restaurant in Lakeland, Fla., said in a statement on behalf of Fight for $15. The group is supported by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and other advocacy organizations representing restaurant workers. “We knocked [on] doors, organized our communities, and even walked off the job to demand $15 an hour and to make sure every Florida voter knew what was at stake in this election.”

The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association countered with warnings that the measure could backfire and hurt workers by encouraging the elimination of jobs. It is projecting that the wage hike will kill 158,000 jobs, on top of the 336,000 positions that have been eliminated by the pandemic.

“Given the devastating impacts COVID-19 has already had on Florida’s economy, we are extremely worried about the job losses and business closures that will accompany this mandate,” Carol Dover, CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said in a statement issued Thursday morning.

The measure, Amendment 2, required a 60% “super majority” vote to assume the power of law. Early tabulations by the election watchdog site Ballotpedia show that 60.8% of voters cast a “yea” ballot.

California Proposition 22

Voters approved the ballot measure that will allow drivers for companies like Uber and DoorDash to continue working as independent contractors, with some added benefits.

It’s a big win for those companies, which poured millions into the campaign, making it the most expensive ballot initiative in California history. Had it failed, they would likely have had to reclassify drivers as employees under an existing state law. The companies said this would have forced them to reduce their workforce, leading to longer wait times and higher costs for delivery.

For restaurants, the passage of Prop 22 means that not much should change in terms of the availability and cost of third-party delivery service, at least in the short-term.

“Passing Prop 22 is a big win for Dashers, merchants, customers, and communities,” said DoorDash CEO Tony Xu in a statement. “Californians sided with drivers, recognizing the importance of flexible work and the critical need to extend new benefits and protections to drivers like Dashers. Now, we’re looking ahead and across the country, ready to champion new benefits structures that are portable, proportional, and flexible.”

Opponents of Prop 22 say it deprives workers of their right to the protections and benefits afforded to full-time employees, such as paid sick leave and a minimum hourly wage.

With three-fourths of the vote counted on Wednesday morning, it was on its way to victory by a wide margin: More than 58% of voters were in favor of it, according to The Associated Press.

Marijuana legislation

Several states have OK’d the legalization of marijuana, including Arizona, South Dakota, New Jersey and Montana. Voters in Oregon, where recreational marijuana use is already legal, agreed to decriminalize possession of hard drugs, too.

The votes were part of a broad movement on the part of states to make marijuana legal, at least in part due to revenue demands by state governments.

To be sure, restaurants are not directly impacted by such votes. Yet legal marijuana does impact restaurants in part by keeping more customers home and providing more intense competition for labor, according to Restaurant Business sister company Technomic. And some restaurants have started adding THC directly into menu items in states where it is legal.

Nearly 60% of voters in Arizona passed the state’s Proposition 207 legalizing the drug for adults 21 and older, according to The Associated Press tally as of 11 a.m. CST. In South Dakota, 53.4% of voters OK’d the state’s Amendment A measure.

In New Jersey, 67% of voters approved Question 1 to legalize recreational marijuana. And nearly 57% of voters in Montana approved a constitutional amendment legalizing the drug for people over 21.

In Oregon, nearly 59% of voters agreed to decriminalize the possession of certain hard drugs and establish a drug treatment plan funded by that state’s marijuana tax revenue.

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