Advocacy groups claim Florida is denying minimum wage earners a raise, while state lawmakers are hiring six-figured salaried friends

While this legal action plays out, a host of activist groups are blasting Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker Dean Cannon, for their naming former lobbyists, politicians, and political operatives to key staff positions that will draw taxpayer-funded salaries of more than $100,000-per-year.

While families in Florida are deprived a six-cent raise, state leaders are using our tax dollars to hand out six-figure salaries to their political buddies,” said Susannah Randolph, Executive Director of Florida Watch Action.  “The legislative session has yet to begin but it’s already business-as-usual in Tallahassee.”

Randolph says the case of former GOP state Senator Carey Baker is an especially egregious case in point.

Just days after the midterm elections,  Haridopolos hired Baker for $89,000 as a consultant to the Florida Senate and will make the equivalent of $175-per-hour, according to his contract.

Mark Ferullo with Progress Florida says, " Our government balks at a six cent per hour increase for Florida’s working families, but our government leaders have no problem doling out six figure salaries to their political cronies. That’s a $10 per month raise refused thousands of hard working Floridians while a political buddy of the Senate President makes $175 an hour.”

Randolph adds, "6 cents (an hour) doesn't seem like a lot to Scott, Haridopolos & Cannon, but for a lot of working families in this state, 6 cents in hour could be a difference for a lot of people."

On Monday, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of thousands of minimum wage earners in Florida against the state's Agency for Workforce Innovation (AWI). The suit claims the agency has refused to raise the state's minimum wage to keep pace with the rising cost of living, as required by state law since a constitutional amendment was passed in 2004.

The National Employment Law Project and Florida Legal Service say the agency is denying workers a six-cent raise to $7.31 an hour.

Although the Florida Supreme Court said that the law did not provide for decreases in the minimum wage in times of deflation, the plaintiffs say that have seen internal documents that show that AWI reduced the minimum wage in 2010 to $7.06 per hour from 2009's $7.21 because of deflation that happened in 2008-2009.  They say that the rate should have stayed at $7.21   But because Congress raised the federal minimum wage to $7.25.  minimum wage earners didn't suffer that "erroneous" wage cut.

Those advocates say because AWI's calculation for 2010 was artificially low,  the agency miscalculated the 2011 rate as $7.16 per hour, which is still below the federal minimum wage rate.  In fact, the correct 2011 rate is $7.31 — six cents more than the federal rate. They say that  AWI has so far refused plaintiffs’ request to correct the error, which affects 188,000 workers.

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