2013 Florida Legislature

Miami-Dade politicians blast Legislature over wage laws



Natacha Seijas, the former Miami-Dade commissioner who championed ordinances creating a local “living wage” and preventing wage theft, took Florida lawmakers to task Thursday for considering legislation that would force counties to repeal those laws.

Seijas, a Republican who has kept a low profile since being recalled from office two years ago, joined former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, a Democrat, and union workers on the steps of downtown Miami’s historic courthouse to ask Miami-Dade lawmakers and the public to oppose legislation banning local-government wage laws.

“Quit stepping on our toes. Stop meddling in our local affairs,” Seijas said. “You have plenty to do in fixing the state of Florida.”

Miami-Dade, whose home-rule charter gives it special powers, requires major public contractors to offer health benefits and a minimum wage higher than the one set by the federal government. The county also requires contractors to provide victims of domestic violence up to 30 days off without pay to get their lives in order. And Miami-Dade gives any employee who has not been paid for his or her work a venue to denounce their employers for wage theft.

Several Tallahassee bills, sponsored by GOP lawmakers calling for statewide uniformity on wage-related issues, would preempt those policies. Similar laws exist in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

“They don’t have the right to dictate to Dade County what we should be doing,” Martinez said.

Seijas and Martinez, in an apparent appeal to Cuban-American lawmakers and voters, attacked Rep. Charles Van Zant, a Keystone Heights Republican who has filed a bill, HB 181, that would prohibit local governments from imposing minimum-wage or health-benefit requirements on contractors hired for public-works projects. Van Zant’s legislative biography says he earned a doctorate in theology from the Western Baptist Theological Seminary in Havana from 1999 to 2001.

“He probably thinks everybody in Miami-Dade County should live in poverty just like all those people he saw in communist Cuba,” Seijas said.

Thursday’s effort was coordinated by South Florida Jobs with Justice, a pro-union nonprofit. Its governmental affairs director, Fred Frost, blasted the state’s business establishment — the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and Associated Industries of Florida — for backing the proposed legislation.

Frost stood in front of a cluster of workers holding signs that read “Living wages help keep workers out of poverty” and “Tallahassee lawmakers: stop undermining our local government.”

“Something stinks in Tallahassee,” Frost said. “Even though it’s 500 miles away, we smell it.”

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