Report: Florida Workers Left Out of Economic Boom

By Suzanne Potter, Florida News Connection

Over the past 35 years, income inequality in Florida has gotten much worse, according to a new report from Florida International University (FIU).

The report, The State of Working Florida 2015, says the wage gap between the top 10 percent and the bottom 10 percent has grown by almost two-thirds.

The report, just in time for Labor Day, also says the state’s GDP is up and unemployment is down, but the poor, stuck in low-wage jobs, have been left behind.

Jorge Zumaeta, the report’s author and an economist at FIU, quantifies the gap.

“The wages of the top 10 percent wage earners grew 25 times faster than the wages of low wage earners between 2001 and 2014,” he explains.

The report recommends raising the minimum wage, doing a better job of enforcing existing labor laws, increasing transparency in wages so workers know if they’re being paid unfairly and building more state partnerships with businesses to train workers.

Cynthia Hernandez, community outreach director for the South Florida AFL-CIO, says she is frustrated with the state’s political leadership and would like to see the current attorney general start prosecuting companies that cheat their employees.

She also faults then-Gov. Jeb Bush for closing the State Department of Labor in 2002.

“Year after year, we see the gap between the rich and the poor increasing,” she stresses. “Yet, we have elected officials who still do not introduce policies to strengthen our middle class.”

Proposals to increase the state’s minimum wage have failed in the legislature multiple times in recent years. However, several Florida counties do have living-wage ordinances that require large county contractors to pay a wage tied to the cost of living.