Posts Tagged ‘labor and work’

Judge throws out Fla. pension reform

Posted on: March 6th, 2012 by The American Independent 2 Comments

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Jackie Fulford today ruled against the state of Florida in a lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association (FEA) challenging that state’s move to mandate employee contributions to state employee pensions. (more…)

Report: Fla. GOP tried to sneak prison privatization into budget

Posted on: March 6th, 2012 by The American Independent 2 Comments

Pic by Smithers7, via Wikimedia Commons

During budget negotiations Sunday night, GOP leadership tried to unsuccessfully sneak prison privatization into the state’s budget, The Palm Beach Post reports. (more…)

Florida AIDS drug waiting list longest in U.S.

Posted on: February 27th, 2012 by Mikhail Zinshteyn 1 Comment


Advocates launched a campaign to urge the Florida legislature to secure funding for the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program, the same week it was announced that almost 1,100 Floridians who live with HIV are on the drug assistance programs waiting list.

The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, NASTAD (.pdf) shows that as of Friday, Florida has the longest AIDS Drug Assistance Program waiting list in the U.S. The data also show that over 4,250 people in 11 states are on an ADAP waiting list across the U.S.

The AIDS Drug Assistance Program, known as ADAP, is a nationwide, federally-funded payer of last resort for people who cannot afford their HIV/AIDS medications. The program has been in a funding crisis since 2010, which prompted many states, including Florida, to implement cost containment measures (.pdf) such as waiting lists.

In response to the rise in the ADAP waiting list, the Florida HIV/AIDS Advocacy Network writes, “the Florida Senate’s budget proposes an increase for Florida’s ADAP program, but currently there are no recommendations for similar increases from the Florida House of Representatives.”

The Florida HIV/AIDS Advocacy Network has also launched a campaign “to gain support among House members to join the Florida Senate and work together to eliminate the waiting list for Florida ADAP.”

Florida’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS reported in mid-Febraury that 1,000 people (.pdf) were on the ADAP waiting list, and that almost half of those were living in Broward (252) and Miami-Dade (243) counties.

Gov. Rick Scott’s press office wrote to the Independent over a week ago that, “While Gov. Scott did not propose additional funding to ADAP in his 2012-2013 budget recommendations, he is looking at the whole program with the goal of reducing unnecessary administrative costs and making it operate more efficiently so that more people can be served with the funds we already have.”

Other HIV/AIDS advocates and U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fort Lauderdale, have called on Scott to support state funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

Rick Scott backs renewed attempt to drug test state employees

Posted on: February 21st, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

Gov. Rick Scott (Pic via flgov.com)

A bill allowing state agencies to randomly drug test their employees, which was unexpectedly resurrected in the Florida House last week, has the support of Gov. Rick Scott. (more…)

Fla. bill would bar local crackdowns on wage theft

Posted on: February 17th, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami (Pic by <a href="http://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/PhotoAlbums/photoalbum.aspx?MemberId=4342&SessionId=61">Meredith Geddings</a>)

South Florida labor and worker’s rights organizations are mobilizing their members and calling on state senators to stop a GOP bill that would prohibit Florida cities and counties from passing ordinances that crack down on wage theft, the practice of stiffing workers out of money they are owed.

The Senate version of the bill — filed by state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs — is on the Judiciary committee calendar for Mon., Jan. 20. State Rep. Tom Goodson, R-Titusville, filed the legislation that passed a first vote in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee in early December, and a second vote in a House subcommittee in early January.

People Engaged in Active Community Efforts — aka PEACE, a coalition of 27 religious congregations from Palm Beach County — wrote to all the members of the Judiciary committee Thursday expressing their “sincere hope that you will oppose the bill.”

The letter adds:

We understand Senator Simmons plans on introducing an amendment that would provide for some sort of “courts” solution to the problem of wage theft locally. We know all too well what this so-called solution would look like, given that this is exactly what the opponents to our local Wage Theft Ordinance have pushed here in Palm Beach County. In fact, they have been successful in getting a pilot program up and running, dubbed the “Legal Aid Model,” which essentially refers victims of wage theft to the courts after an attempt at conciliation.

The letter also points to a study released in October that compares the wage theft project of the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County with the wage theft program at the Department of Small Business Development of Miami-Dade County. That study found that Miami-Dade received and resolved a larger number of cases than did Legal Aid.

It also found that Palm Beach recovered 2.5 percent of the claim dollars through conciliation; Miami-Dade recovered 45 percent of claim dollars.

South Florida Jobs with Justice, which supports organized labor and workers, issued a press release Thursday calling on its members to contact Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, the chair of the Judiciary committee, urging her to kill the bill.

Jobs with Justice writes:

This bill, mis-titled Wage Theft Protection for Employees, does not protect employees but instead takes away the ability of local government to do so. Should the bill pass, workers throughout Miami-Dade County will no longer be able to seek viable help when they work and are not paid. And local governments in other counties won’t be able to step up and help their residences either.

In January, the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (known as RISEP) at Florida International University released a study that shows that wage theft — employers stiffing workers out of money they are owed — remains a widespread problem that affects millions of Floridians.

The report states what supporters of the local anti-wage theft ordinances have told The Florida Independent before: Existing federal workplace laws do not protect millions of workers, including “hospital, school, or government workers or workers at small, local firms, including contractors for larger companies.” Florida’s minimum wage law also excludes millions of workers “from protections against employers who withhold their earnings.”

The business lobby that supports the Goodson/Simmons bill includes the Florida Retail Federation, which has a pending court challenge against the Miami-Dade anti-wage theft ordinance, and Associated Builders and Contractors.

Samantha Hunter Padgett, deputy general counsel for the Florida Retail Federation, told the Independent in December that her organization supports Simmons’ bill because “existing state and federal laws address the issues raised in local wage theft ordinances.

Jeanette Smith, a registered Republican and a member of the Florida Wage Theft Task Force, opposes Goodson and Simmons’ bill. She tells the Independent that “a large number of employees in Florida do not fall under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, nor any other federal law.”

According to Smith, when opponents of local anti-wage theft ordinances say it’s a federal issue, “they’re assuming people can go to the wage and hours division of the federal department of labor for assistance, and they can’t.”

Florida sen. committee seeks minimum wage cut for tipped workers

Posted on: February 16th, 2012 by The American Independent 1 Comment

Florida state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice (Photo: myfloridahouse.gov/Meredith Hill)

The state Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee passed a bill Thursday that would allow employers to pay tipped workers, waiters and waitresses, a lower minimum wage than what is currently authorized in Florida.

“We are being brave and bold and being statesmen and not politicians,” said the committee chair, state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice. Detert added that the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association brought the idea for the bill to the Senate committee in an effort to make sure restaurants survive, noting that the bill makes the new minimum wage optional.

Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Restaurant and Lodging Association, said that “during the last week there have been many reports that misreported” about the bill. Dover said restaurants want to keep employees, but the 118 percent increase in their wage since 2004, when voters approved a constitutional amendment to tie minimum wage increases to the inflation index, is hurting the industry.

State Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Daytona Beach, pointed out that many restaurant workers are low-wage workers, and Detert added that many workers are employed at restaurants like Cracker Barrel or Denny’s and not high-end restaurants, earning large amounts on tips.

Dover responded by saying that because the bill requires owners to secure a $10 minimum it would increase wages for restaurant workers who make less money now. Dover argued that data shows that labor costs are a major contributor to businesses closing down, and that under this bill there will be a reduction in federal taxes.

A member of the Restaurant and Lodging Association said workers would not make less money and owners would pay less taxes. Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce both stated their support for the bill.

Rich Templin of the Florida AFL-CIO said that after numerous investigations his organization opposes the bill because it has not found any negative effect from the wage rate for tipped workers. Templin said that Florida ranks No. 3 in restaurant growth and sales growth, according to National Restaurant Association.

Templin said that tipped workers have a high poverty rate among workers across the U.S., and his group found a potential $2.52 reduction in tipped workers’ wage rate if the bill passes.

According to Noah Warman — an attorney at Sugarman & Susskind who represents labor unions and workers — the bill says “instead of paying the higher Florida minimum wage for tipped workers ($4.65 an hour),” let restaurants “use the federal rate ($2.13 an hour).”

Warman says that if, for example, a restaurant server is earning $6 an hour in tips, the employer could pay him or her $3.98 an hour (below the current $4.65 standard) to reach the $9.98 minimum. According to Warman, if a server is already making $7 or $8 per hour in tips, the proposed Senate bill “will be a wage cut for that worker, because the worker is losing the $2.52 differential that he is always guaranteed under Florida law.”

South Florida Jobs with Justice, which supports organized labor and workers, will hold an event Friday to protest OSI Restaurant Partners, owners of Outback Steakhouse, over the company’s support for the Senate bill.

In a press release issued Thursday, South Florida Jobs with Justice writes: “Join us on Friday to leaflet the Outback Steakhouse to tell them that workers can’t survive on $2.13 an hour!”

The “portfolio of brands” of OSI Restaurant Partners, headquartered in Tampa, “consists of Outback Steakhouse units throughout the U.S., as well as Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine.” The company says it operates in 49 states and 24 countries around the world.

Numbers USA says real winners in Florida GOP were ‘self-deportation,’ ‘Latino dignity’

Posted on: February 3rd, 2012 by The American Independent 3 Comments

Numbers USA — an organization that agitates “For Lower Immigration Levels” — wrote this week that the “Vote Winners” in Florida’s recent GOP presidential primary “Are Latino Dignity & Self-Deportation.” (more…)

‘Self-deportation’ another way to describe ‘attrition through enforcement’

Posted on: January 27th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

When GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke about “self-deportation” in Florida this week, his closest rival Newt Gingrich called it an “Obama-level fantasy,” but self-deportation is really just another way to describe “attrition through enforcement.” (more…)