Miami Beach officials ``shocked'' that city ignored own living wage law BY DAVID SMILEY
When Miami Beach became the first Florida city to pass a living-wage law in 2001, the legislation was hailed as a progressive move toward guaranteeing all full-time workers pay that would put them at or over the federal poverty line.
But these days, discussion of the city's law evokes words like ``sad'' and ``shocked.'' That's because for nearly nine years, Miami Beach has ignored the part of its law that requires the living wage be updated every year, leaving the lowest-paid employees of the city and city contractors at an hourly rate dollars below what it should be under the city ordinance.
A Jan. 26 memo from City Manager Jorge Gonzalez says the living wage established by the 2001 law -- equal to that of Miami-Dade County -- should today be $11.36 an hour for employees receiving benefits. As of Jan. 28, it remained at $8.56.
``It's embarrassing,'' Commissioner Deede Weithorn said during the Finance and Citywide Projects committee meeting Jan. 26. ``We should just tell everyone that we don't have a living wage here, just minimum wage.''
The committee broached the topic of raising the wage amid pressure from the Service Employees International Union on behalf of employees for the city's security contractor. Also on Jan. 26, attorney Jose Javier Rodriguez of Florida Legal Services sent a letter to Gonzalez, saying legal action would be taken should the wage not be increased by Feb. 10.
Under the 2001 law, the city must update its living wage yearly, according to cost-of-living increases determined by the Consumer Price Index, unless directed otherwise by the city commission. However, Gonzalez acknowledged that no commission ever directed the city not to update the living wage rate.
When Commissioner Jonah Wolfson asked why it was never updated, Gonzalez initially raised his palms and shrugged. Gonzalez, who did not return calls requesting further comment, said later in the meeting that the failure to act was by ``omission'' and was not done on purpose. . .
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