Business Monday

CEOs debate Miami Beach mayor’s minimum wage proposal

Dr. Alejandro Badia is an orthopedic surgeon who leads a network of orthopedic urgent care centers called OrthoNOW based in Doral. The company has locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Dr. Alejandro Badia is an orthopedic surgeon who leads a network of orthopedic urgent care centers called OrthoNOW based in Doral. The company has locations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

This week’s question: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine recently announced he would gradually seek to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13.21, citing the growing struggle workers face to afford living on the Beach but also setting up a certain fight with the state. Do you think it’s a good idea?

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Yes, I do think it is a good idea and I believe that the increase will have a positive impact on our community. The cost of living in the greater Miami area is very high and this measure can help close the poverty gap. I would also encourage the mayor and other city officials to examine ways to reduce other abnormally high day-to-day cost-of-living items, like high public parking and valet rates, in order to help balance the cost of living.

Alejandro Badia, orthopedic surgeon and founder, OrthoNOW

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I personally think it is a good idea that reflects the economic environment we live in. For our community to flourish, we need to ensure that full-time workers are able to earn enough money to support their families. As the cost of living continues to rise in many communities around Miami-Dade County, there is no doubt an increasing number of workers who are struggling to maintain a basic standard of living. If we want to ensure continued economic growth, we have to make sure wages keep pace with the rising costs associated with living in our community.

Hilarie Bass, co-president, Greenberg Traurig

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I support policies and regulations that ensure a fair and equitable working environment for both employees and employers. Given that labor costs are the highest overall costs in a hotel, these increases must not be too high or fast for the industry to absorb them. Increases that are too high or fast can hurt the hotel industry and its ability to create jobs and grow the economy. The Greater Miami and Beaches Hotel Association is evaluating the impact of the proposed phased increases to determine the overall financial impact. The last thing we would want is for jobs to be eliminated as a result of unsustainable wage increases.

Peggy Benua, general manager, Dream South Beach

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Raising the minimum wage to a living wage is a just goal, and there should be flexibility within communities with a higher cost of living to require a higher minimum wage that truly addresses an affordable standard of living. It’s not about being at odds with the state, but rather working with the state to possibly create zones for certain areas to have minimum wages that truly reflect the cost of living.

Sister Linda Bevilacqua, President, Barry University

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It’s a fine line between protecting the employee while not negatively impacting the business owner. As a former small business owner I sat on the employer side of the desk dealing with operating on slim margins while trying to compensate my employees as generously as possible. On the other hand, in my teens, I was a 16-year-old employee working the counter at a local burger franchise and walked home with almost nothing after deductions. This is a tough one and I think we must tread lightly.

Meg Daly, president and CEO, Friends of The Underline

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The mayor’s announcement that he would gradually seek to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13.21 is bold and politically courageous, but not enough. A better proposal would be to raise it to $15 per hour (indexed to inflation). And while the mayor cites, in defense of his proposal, “the growing struggle workers face to afford living on the Beach,” it is a fact that in Dade County, anybody whose income is related to the minimum wage has the same economic survival issues. So, in preparing for a certain fight with the state, he should call on every mayor in Dade County, and every labor union, to join him. With high unemployment and low income rampant in many communities in Dade County, we can ill afford to have a policy that affects one community.

T. Willard Fair, president and CEO, Urban League of Greater Miami

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The impact of low minimum wages on expensive communities like Miami Beach that depend on service workers for its thriving tourist business is severe. Per the Miami Herald, the state mandated minimum wage is $8.05, a $322 base salary for a 40 hour week excluding tips. The city is proposing $10.31 an hour starting July 2017 with a dollar per year increase until it reaches $13.31 in 2020. The city’s proposal seems reasonable, scaled and needed in order to preserve the employee pool of service workers. Business may benefit from having less turnover in their employees.

Vicky Garrigo, market head, U.S. Southeastern Region Private Banking, HSBC Bank

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Jared Diamond wrote Collapse, a book where he analyzes the factors that led to the fall of a number of significant empires. He concludes that there are two common factors to every “collapse”: environmental degradation and a vast disparity between rich and poor. We all know we have to reverse what’s happening to the environment, and, I believe, for the same reasons we need a more equitable way that wealth is distributed. A higher minimum wage is the least we can do.

Mitch Kaplan, founder, Books & Books

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Don’t we all deserve a living wage? Mayor Levine’s efforts to seek a higher minimum wage for Miami Beach are important, particularly since tourism is a major economic engine for this market. In order to attract and retain individuals who will provide the best guest service experience, fair wages should be paid. Otherwise, you are risking the workforce quality of an industry that is critical to the city’s economy.

Alan Kleber, managing director, JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle)

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Aside from $13.21 seeming like an arbitrary number, I’m not in favor of raising the minimum wage. We live in a free market system, and most workers in Miami Beach have an opportunity to earn far more than the proposed minimum. While it may sound like a good idea to raise the minimum wage, the market will react by hiring fewer workers and this counter-balance will hurt our overall economy as employers decrease hiring and even eliminate jobs. At Ocean Cadillac, just north of Miami Beach, our minimum wages are above $13 because the market demands it. In order to provide Cadillac-level service, we need trained, skilled and educated employees, and we pay them accordingly. I believe the mayor’s heart is in the right place but the key is attracting and keeping the right types of businesses in the city.

Mario Murgado, president and CEO, Brickell Motors

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The growing debate over the minimum wage, salaries and overtime pay is a contentious one, and in regard to economics, must be approached carefully. I firmly believe that businesses must pay reasonable wages, allowing workers a fair standard of living. However, wages must increase in a way that is sustainable. Many small businesses, and even large corporations, will have difficulty absorbing the cost of labor shock that comes with minimum wage increases (especially in the hospitality sector). In some scenarios, businesses may choose to cut hours or staff to offset the increased costs they are experiencing. Ultimately, the practicality of our local government’s ability to determine wage laws lies in the hands of the courts.

Steve Perricone, president and owner, Perricone’s Restaurant

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Mayor Levine is doing an outstanding job. We in Miami Beach are lucky to have him working so hard to make our city a better place. Lower middle class Americans deserve to earn more. I am in favor of finding ways to improve their income potential.

Craig Robins, president and CEO, Dacra

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It’s clear our local labor force works incredibly hard and our cost of living is higher than any of us would prefer. I would support a modest raise and believe it could be successful. With that said, I believe that raising the minimum wage to the aforementioned level is an idea that will have unintended consequences.

David Samson, president, Miami Marlins

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Miami, to be sure, faces affordability issues — in particular when it comes to housing. We cannot lose sight of the fact that many Miamians cannot afford to live anywhere near where they work, which means more traffic, more money spent on gas, more time in the car, more time spent away from family and friends, and undoubtedly more pollution — among other things. In seeking this increase in the minimum wage, Mayor Levine is responding to these and other issues facing our community.

Rachel Silverstein, executive director, Miami Waterkeeper

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