Florida's small businesses cannot survive a $15 minimum wage mandate

The election is just days away. The consequences will last a lifetime.

We’ve seen liberal cities across the country vote in favor of minimum wage proposals. They sound good in principle -- who doesn’t want our workers to have a bigger paycheck? But they have been a disaster in practice.

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In cities where this initiative has passed, small businesses were forced to close. Unlike major corporations, small businesses could not absorb the exponential increase in operating costs.

Others were forced to cut the number of employees, cut their hours or cut their benefits, just to make ends meet.

That’s what will happen in Florida if the proposed constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage incrementally to $15 per hour by 2026 passes on November 3.

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Instead of helping workers get bigger paychecks, many of them will have no paychecks at all -- because they will lose their jobs. And the impacts will stretch farther than those big cities.

Here, the proposed measure is statewide. Florida would be the first state in the nation to incorporate a $15 minimum wage in the state’s constitution.

Our small businesses have struggled to stay alive during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some have had to close. If the amendment passes, many more small businesses will be forced to shutter their doors forever.

It will destroy Florida’s economy.

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As a board member of our Chamber of Commerce, I can report to you that the impact weighs heavily across all industries in our community. Our 1,200 member businesses and their approximately 63,000 employees have all taken it right on the chin.

I am a small business owner, a restaurateur in Sarasota on Florida’s southwest coast. Our industry statewide has been one of the most severely impacted.

Many operations were forced to close across the Sunshine State, and more than 934,000 people were furloughed or laid off as a result.

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Ballot Amendment 2 would raise Florida's minimum wage to $15 an hour. That’s a 77% increase in payroll for businesses in the service industry.

This drastic increase will force our industry to cut jobs, cut hours and cut benefits.

The very workers this misleading amendment is intended to help would be left without jobs and without the means to pay their bills and provide for their families. It will be a lethal blow to our struggling businesses.

And what will Florida’s hospitality industry look like with a $15 minimum wage? Just like we’ve seen in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Seattle, the smiling faces that traditionally greet customers in establishments all across the Sunshine State will be replaced by iPads and kiosks to take your order.

Yes, technology will replace yet another segment of human interaction. What sort of hospitality is that?

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Not only will technology replace the friendly faces we’re known for, but prices for goods and services across Florida will increase. That’s the only way business owners can cover the exponentially increasing costs of labor to make ends meet.

We’ve already seen this liberal scheme fail in the elitist Northeast and radical West. When the mandatory minimum wage was jacked up to $15 or more, the charming businesses that defined those regions closed their doors and laid-off workers. Their communities and local economies are skeletons of their former selves.

Why would we apply those failed liberal policies here in Florida?

As many as one thousand people a day are fleeing the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut region and they are moving to Florida.

We welcome you, but please don’t bring those failed policies with you. Workers and small business owners from the Panhandle to the Keys are fighting to save their jobs. Please don’t make it harder for them.

The election is just days away. The consequences will last a lifetime. Help us save jobs. Help us save businesses.

Floridians, please vote NO on Ballot Amendment 2.

Paul Caragiulo is a restaurateur and board member of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and a former Sarasota County Commissioner.

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