Miami business leaders respond to FL minimum wage hike

Many Florida workers are getting a raise.

Last week, more than 60% of Florida voters approved a measure that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $8.56 to $15 per hour by 2026. Opponents argued it would kill small businesses; proponents said the current wage is too low.

Both businesses and workers won’t see the increase any time soon. The change doesn’t take effect until Sept. 30, 2021, when the state’s minimum wage rises from $8.56 per hour to $10 per hour. The wage then will rise by $1 per hour every Sept. 30 until Sept. 30, 2026, when it reaches $15 per hour.

Here’s how local business leaders responded to Tuesday’s passage. Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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Omar Ali-Shamaa, attorney, Wolfe Pincavage LLP

From a small-business standpoint, it’s going to reduce the number of employees, or hours. And one thing I think this does more than anything, which has already been happening but which will now speed up, is more businesses are going to start to automate to have less labor costs. COVID helped with that because you had limited capacity and restrictions, and so restaurants were operating on smaller margins. But now, raising labor costs is going to expedite automation for small and medium businesses in hospitality.

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Tony Argiz, chairman and CEO, MBAF accounting and consulting firm

So what if people have to pay more. You’ve got to take care of your workers and not have them live under the poverty line. So this is good for everybody. Businesses will get back the money. And it’s not a big deal when you’re increasing it through 2026, it’s not all at once. Basically, we have 6 more years. I think there is more wealth to be passed around, and businesses will be able to recapture it”

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Sunil Bhatt

Sunil Bhatt, CEO, Michael Schwartz’s Genuine Hospitality Group

I embrace it, because I think it’s the right thing to do. When people are stable, they make better employees. There is a corporate benefit to have people making more money.

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Serafín Blanco, propietario de las tiendas “ Ño que Barato,” comenta sobre el discurso del presidente Barack Obama. Roberto Koltun [email protected]

Serafín Blanco, owner, Ño Que Barato

It’s what voters decided so we must accept it. That’s our system. I know that perhaps it will be a bit difficult, but the economy will change little by little. Maybe things will get more expensive in some markets; I imagine that technology will replace some employees in some industries. But one also has to acknowledge that with $8.56 an hour it’s pretty hard to make it. We will adjust and see what happens. I already have employees that earn at least $10 an hour. So I think moving up little by little won’t make much difference initially.

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Albert Garcia, chairman, Wynwood Business Improvement District

We’ve been monitoring this for some time, and our district has a huge workforce in the hospitality sector that’s obviously going to be hit with this. At first we were hearing a lot of political stuff about how this is going to be detrimental to businesses and result in job losses, but when you actually start to speak to business owners in places like Wynwood, the small mom-and-pop shops here, they tend to have stable workforces — employees who are very loyal and love their jobs. What we’re finding is that a lot of business owners are embracing this change.

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Nicole Gates, Karim Bryant and their son, Karter, are part of the family-run Lil Greenhouse Grill in Overtown that drew a visit by Oprah Winfrey. Carlos Frías [email protected]

Nicole Gates, co-owner, Lil Greenhouse Grill

At that kind of salary for a small business like ours, you’ve got to be able to do a couple of things. If you’re a dish washer, may you have to mop or carry a box as well. So fiscally, especially coming off COVID, it is a challenge, but not one we’re scared to meet.

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Cousins Nedal Ahmad and Otto Othman of the Pincho Factory, a Miami-based fast-casual food company that has plans to expand. The two founded the company with Nizar Ahmad. CHARLES TRAINOR JR. [email protected]

Otto Othman, CEO, Pincho

Higher wages have led to happier team members and better productivity. Higher wages will most likely lift people out of poverty and that is definitely a huge win.

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Jorge Pérez, dueño de la tienda A&M Comics and Books, posa junto a una máscara de Spider-Man en su local, ubicado en el 6650 Bird Road en Miami. DAVID SANTIAGO [email protected]

Jorge Perez, owner, A&M Comics

I would probably not be able to afford employees anymore. I try to give high school and college students a part-time minimum wage job, but jumping to $15 is a big difference. I’ll probably have to contact the high school and only offer internships or work experience. It’s going to be rough for mom-and-pops; for big corporations not so much, but for mom and pops you won’t be able to give young people a job.

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Lolo Reskin, co-owner, Sweat Records

We just announced last week that we’re moving to $15 an hour for our employees. We’re in an industry where we don’t have that high of a markup on what we sell, but we really think this is the right thing to do and have been retooling everything since the pandemic anyway. We believe it’s important to set goals like this and we don’t mind working a little harder to compensate our employees. We didn’t think it made sense to wait until 2026 to make that happen.

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Miami, Florida, August 28, 2019- J.C. (Juan Carlos) Restrepo (left) and his life partner Joanna Fajardo (right) are the owners of Happy Wine on Calle Ocho and have been since 2010. In the last year, he was diagnosed with kidney failure and needed daily dialysis before going on the transplant list. Meanwhile, his Coconut Grove Happy Wine location struggled and he took on an investor to whom he turned over the business. But in April, he landed on the transplant list and got word a new kidney was available the very next day. Now, he has sold the Coconut Grove location and is considering changing the Happy Wine name, to which he gave up partial ownership in the settlement. But he has his health, Joanna who fought to keep both businesses running while he faced certain death without a kidney, and they have their original store that remains a favorite of locals and Miami wine lovers. Jose A. Iglesias [email protected]

J.C. Restrepo, co-owner, Happy Wine Shop

The disparity between classes is getting worse and worse. Even $15 an hour is a joke. Everyone in this city should be making at least $20 an hour. How are you going to send your kids to college on less than $15? How are you going to buy a house?

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Jamila Ross and Akino West outside The Copper Door Bed & Breakfast. Photograph by Felipe Cuevas. Hair and makeup by Latricia Russell for Makeup by RoryLee.

Jamila Ross, co-owner, The Copper Door B&B

It’s not going to be easy. I’m thankful for the strategic, steady increase, but I’d be lying if I said it’s not something I worry about when I put on my entrepreneur hat. We may integrate a more salary-based position that has max hours associated with it. We will have to be creative about how we can give our hard-working team what they need to be economically successful along with keeping the business in mind, so we might look at housekeepers that can do an 8-10 hour shift and implement a few more responsibilities to give them a resume boost, and have them on salary instead.

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Alfred Sanchez, new president and CEO if the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

Alfred Sanchez, president and CEO, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce

I think this is using a sledgehammer when you need a scalpel. Going to $15 an hour, that means $30,000 a year, that would bump people above the poverty line, and they’re going to end up losing a lot of different social services, like child care, food aid — a lot of what is now being provided to them. So you’re trying to do the right thing by getting more money to workers but may be putting them in a worse situation. The reason we need legislation is to balance that out — do we now raise the poverty level? There’s an intricate play of how these things fit together.

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Wynwood’s, Zak the Baker, (Zak Stern) lights a stick of dried sage to add to his “Go Away Zika” shrine outside of his popular Wynwood bakery in August. Zak is trying to make light of of the Zika outbreak that has affected his walk-in store’s daily business. Emily Michot [email protected]

Zak Stern, founder, Zak The Baker

Look, we did it. We proved you can do it. I baked higher wages into the model. The team feels less burned out. A business can integrate any idea if they prioritize it. Raising prices is a cheap answer.