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McDonald's protest highlights income gap

New study shows Florida to be one of the worst states for a living wage

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“Hey, hey, ho, ho, poverty wages have got to go,” was one of the protest chants. “You can’t survive off $7.79,” was another, highlighting Florida’s cost-of-living-adjusted minimum wage (the national minimum wage is $7.25).

While Republicans and Tea Party activists shrug their shoulders at the rising call for a living wage – “What about the businesses and regulations and the cost of implementing Obamacare?” seems to be the current dismissive talking point – the facts exposing the extreme outcome of a busted system wherein working class people are forced to take multiple jobs while simultaneously sucking the teat of public assistance are becoming a bit too loud to ignore, especially when executive profits are through the roof.

On Dec. 3, the Alliance for a Just Society – in conjunction with Organize Now – released its 15th Annual Job Gap Study, including a Florida-specific component. That study pointed to a 2012 Georgetown University report that predicted that Florida was “poised to become a state of mostly low-wage and/or low-skilled jobs.” Though decreasing unemployment continues to be the pillar of Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election delusions, the raw numbers show that Scott’s stockpiling of jobs isn’t what it purports to be. Offering tax breaks to huge corporations and the hospitality industry only results in slimmer pickings for those in need of a job, as evidenced by the new study’s finding that, for a single person, there are 13 job seekers for each available job with a reasonable living wage (in this case, $16.84 an hour). Let’s not forget that just this year the state legislature was angling to eradicate local living wage legislation from some of the state’s more competitive municipalities. The race to the bottom is real. But it isn’t unstoppable, according to Organize Now director Stephanie Porta.

“For the first time ever, Central Florida saw an outpouring of public support from community, faith and labor leaders for fast food workers and all low-wage workers,” she says in an email. “As the local job market continues to trend increasingly toward low-wage work in the hospitality and retail industry, it’s more important than ever that wages give workers the ability to provide for their families and allow communities to thrive. We sent a clear message that the community is behind these workers and together we’ll continue the fight for fair wages.”

In the next few weeks, she says, fast food workers will begin officially organizing locally. Hold the fries.

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