STATEWIDE —  In the general election November 3, Florida voters will have a choice on whether to approve Amendment 2, which would gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour within five years.

Many workers say a raise is needed, but some business owners and operators say if the measure passes, it could force them to lay off workers. 

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Ronnie Jackson is still waiting on a call to go back to her job as a cook at an Orlando International Airport restaurant. She has been on furlough since the pandemic began.

“Not knowing — that’s the hardest part,” Jackson said.

Even when she and other workers were still taking home paychecks, it wasn’t enough money, she said.

“A lot of them are only making $8 [an hour], and they’re working harder than I do — and in worse conditions than I’m in,” Jackson said.

“I’m in a nice restaurant. They’re in like a freezer or something making sandwiches or something.  That’s bad.”

Jackson supports Amendment 2. The ballot amendment would require employers to raise Florida’s minimum wage, which is now at about $8.56 per hour, to $10 dollars in 2021. Every year, the minimum wage would increase by $1, up to $15 an hour by 2026.

At least 60 percent of Florida voters must vote “yes” on Amendment 2 for it to pass in November.​

Azim Saju, who manages several Central Florida hotels, said he believes passage of Amendment 2 would allow government overreach.

“The government coming in and telling us how to run our businesses and what works in order for us to make a livelihood, and a fair return for the risks that we take,” Saju said. “And to us that doesn’t feel like the United States of America.”

Saju said his hotels give employees benefits on top of their take-home pay and opportunities to earn higher wages.

“We pay for gym memberships, professional training, leadership training,” Saju said. “And our front-line people, when we hire them, we invest in developing their skillset.”

Passage of Amendment 2 could raise his expenses by more than 70 percent, Saju said, and some of those costs will be passed on to the consumer.

But at some point, he said, it could force him to cut those worker benefits — or even some workers’s jobs.

“Either reducing workforce or reducing hours,” Saju said.

Ronnie Jackson said she misses cooking for travelers at the airport.

“Cooking for one person is not as much fun,” she said.

It took Jackson seven years at the same job to get her pay up to about $14 an hour. If she doesn’t get called back to her job soon, she said she may have to start over somewhere else at about $8 an hour.

“And that’s something I don’t want to do,” Jackson said. “I don’t want to start all over again.”