Florida legislators who have no idea of the urban challenges we face in Miami-Dade County, are crafting laws to impoverish our working families. They’re introducing laws to unwind local policies that were put in place decades ago to lift up workers who labor on behalf of the public. These local policies don’t cost the state of Florida one dime. This is a local matter, best left to the local government.
The Responsible Wages Ordinance was adopted by the Miami-Dade County Commission in 1991 to ensure that contractors paid prevailing wage rates and provided health coverage to construction workers on county projects. Projects are built to last by skilled workers, who have health insurance if injured on the job. As the county is set to begin work on a multi-billion dollar water and sewer infrastructure program, bids shouldn’t be awarded to contractors paying the minimum wage to inexperienced workers. These projects are too important.
The legislation would eliminate the responsible wages policy and opens the door to the lowest bidder with the lowest paid workers to work on our local projects. If the people of Palatka don’t want to require responsible wages, they have that choice. But why should the state representative from Palatka have the right to effectively repeal our longstanding local policies? Does the fact that the Miami-Dade ‘Home-Rule’ Charter is referenced in the State Constitution mean nothing?
The living wage policies adopted by the county and several municipalities in Miami-Dade guarantees that service workers are insured and able to provide for their families. The costs are built into the bidding process and every company knows the wage policy before bidding, so the county or city absorbs the difference, not the contractor. Our local officials recognize the value of these wage policies.
More than 3,000 county and city service workers in Miami-Dade are able to provide for their families by earning wages that are above the poverty level for a family of four. Every one of these workers has a story about how this local policy has changed their life, or the life of their child. Earning a decent wage through hard work bestows dignity upon our service employees.
In Miami-Dade County our elected officials have stared poverty in the eye and have taken meaningful steps to lift people up. It’s unconscionable that others would work to diminish our residents’ quality of life. We encourage you to contact Representatives Charles Van Zant (HB 181) and Steve Precourt (HB 655); and Senators Alan Hays (SB 1118) and David Simmons (SB 726) to voice your opposition to their meddling in our local contracting policies.
Fred Frost, Director of Governmental Affairs, South Florida Jobs with Justice, Miami