Miami Beach

Miami Beach created a mandatory minimum wage. Now business groups are suing the city.

Miami Beach City Hall
Miami Beach City Hall

When Miami Beach challenged state law and passed a mandatory citywide minimum wage ordinance in June, officials acknowledged it could lead to a lawsuit.

Wednesday was the day. The Florida Retail Federation, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and Florida Chamber of Commerce announced they had filed suit, arguing that the Beach’s ordinance contradicts state law that preempts local governments from setting their own minimum wages.

A Miami Beach city attorney discusses the reasons behind the mayor's plan to raise the minimum wage.

“We don’t support any mandates in which local governments are dictating what private businesses should be paying their employees, as it should be up to each individual employer to determine what is fair and also helps their business remain competitive,” said Randy Miller, CEO and president of the Florida Retail Federation.

The state minimum wage is $8.05 an hour and will go up to $8.10 an hour on Jan 1. Under the new ordinance, the citywide minimum will be set at $10.31 on Jan. 1, 2018, and increase a dollar a year until 2021.

The change was praised by labor unions while business groups said the increase could kill jobs.

“This unconstitutional mandate sets a dangerous precedent, threatens the strength of Florida’s businesses and increases costs to consumers,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “This is a critical issue that must be addressed to protect all of Florida’s employers, including the $89.1 billion hospitality industry which employs 1.2 million dedicated workers in the Sunshine State.”

Robert Rosenwald, first assistant city attorney and the person who drafted the legislation, said a 2004 Florida constitutional amendment that set a state minimum wage higher than the federal rate gives local governments the ability to set their own minimums.

“Seventy-one percent of Floridians voted in 2004 to amend the state constitution to raise the minimum wage and to allow cities to go higher if fairness requires,” he said. “Big business now asks the court to ignore the clear will of 5 million voters and reduce the wages earned by our most vulnerable workers. All less than two weeks before Christmas. They should be ashamed. We will fight hard and we expect to win in court.”

The ordinance was first proposed by Mayor Philip Levine in May. On Wednesday, he was disappointed to hear of the suit.

“It’s disappointing that Tallahassee special interest groups have taken this holiday season to file suit to prevent Floridians from earning a just wage in Florida.” he said. “I will toil every day, legislatively and legally, to see that Miami Beach and the state of Florida reflect the good, fair and equitable principles that millions of Floridians voted to enshrine into law when they voted to say that every worker in our state should be able to make an honest living.”

Demonstrations involving fast-food, airport and hospital employees, among others, were organized in cities including New York, Detroit and Los Angeles.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech