Miami Beach’s City Commission unanimously voted to create a citywide minimum wage Wednesday, the first time that a Florida city has set a local minimum higher than the state mandate — and a challenge to state law.
The state minimum is $8.05 an hour. Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the citywide minimum wage will be set $10.31 and increase a dollar a year until 2021, when it will reach $13.31. From then on, the City Commission will have the discretion to increase the minimum wage further using the local consumer price index.
The local ordinance will apply to all employers in Miami Beach that fall under federal requirements to pay a minimum wage, which are businesses with gross revenues of $500,000 or more. Tipped workers would still have the lower state minimum wage if the tips get the workers’ wages up to the city-mandated minimum.
The ordinance, which Mayor Philip Levine proposed in early May, represents a direct challenge to state law that preempts local governments from setting their own minimum wages. The city’s attorneys maintain they stand on firm legal ground and would prevail in a legal challenge.
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Local labor unions have come out in strong support of the ordinance, citing it as a positive step toward dealing with a fast-increasing cost of living. The higher minimum wage could make a modest dent in the city’s notably wide gap between wages and the cost of living, which include higher rents in some parts of the city that used to be more affordable.
Some proponents say the wage needs to be higher if the city wishes to keep its workforce living on the island.
“It’s a stepping stone,” said Laura Pierre, 19, who works in food service and has two other jobs. “It’s the beginning.”
Members of the business community expressed worries about the potential impact on the workforce.
The Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce has not taken an official stance on the ordinance, said chairman Michael Goldberg. But business owners are concerned about the timing of the implementation.
“If this does pass, by  the wage would have to up to $13.31. Based on $8.05 wage now, that’s a 65 percent increase in about a three-year time period,” he told commissioners in a hearing last week. He later said it could “destabilize the workforce” by encouraging longtime employees to push for higher wages if they see recent hires get the $13.31 rate on day one.
Samantha Padgett, vice president and general counsel for the Florida Retail Federation, told the commission that local businesses could take a serious hit when the increase is considered along with increasing workers compensation premiums and upcoming federally-mandated changes to overtime pay for salaried workers.
“Anyone of these could be significantly detrimental or catastrophic for local businesses,” she said.
Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán added one amendment to the ordinance to clarify to whom the wage applies. Only businesses that have a business license with the city of Miami Beach would have to pay the new minimum. There was concern the law could be interpreted to apply to delivery workers who are not based in the Beach but make deliveries there.