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Why are some state lawmakers living on $17 a day?

All this week, Democratic lawmakers from both the Florida Senate and House of Representatives have been taking part in a very difficult exercise designed to raise awareness about a cause that has been championed all over the nation, but has yet to make real progress here in the Sunshine State.

The cause in question is none other than the raising of the minimum wage, which currently sits at $8.05 in Florida. As we've discussed in prior posts, while our state's minimum wage has actually increased since 2004 thanks to a constitutional amendment passed by voters mandating annual adjustments, it still lags far behind other states and even other cities.

The 18 Democratic lawmakers are taking part in what is known as the "minimum wage challenge," which is organized by the Service Employees International Union and requires participants to live on a budget of $85 for the week -- or $17 per day (excluding things like housing, credit card bills, child care expenses and car payments).

The $17 per day figure is the amount that officials say the average worker earning the minimum wage in Florida has left in their pocket after covering both rent and utilities.

To put things in perspective, consider that researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology determined that a living wage for adults in the state of Florida, assuming the minimum for housing, transportation, food and health care, is $23.01 per hour for a 40-hour workweek.

The hope among the 18 lawmakers is that their efforts will help drum up support for the measure recently introduced by Senators Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) and Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) calling for the state's minimum wage to be raised to $15 per hour, a difficult proposition in the Republican-controlled legislature.

Nevertheless, the lawmakers are hopeful that the event will at least help give the issue some much-needed attention and allay some of the fears of small business owners.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if you believe that your rights under the wage and hour laws have been violated by your employer.

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